Friday, December 24, 2010

Fall On Your Knees...

This evening we attended our church Christmas Eve candelight service. We have gone to one other one, but typically we are involved in family activities and stay home. At first, I will admit, the idea of getting out and about seemed a bit overwhelming. But Mark reminded me that this was one way to remind our children what Christmas was all about. So after a few preparations for the evening, we headed down the road to our church.

One thing that was very different than a normal church service was that Joshua went to this service with us in the sanctuary. He normally stays in "extended care" in the nursery. Of course, another difference was that the lights were off, with only the lit Christmas trees.

As we sat there, all in a row, the youngest in my lap, I was suddenly overwhelmed. The music started ("Here I Am to Worship"), and I was too overcome with emotion to even sing. Suddenly all of the worries of the world faded away.

The church service was beautiful. We had several families read Scripture and light candles to signify different roles God/Jesus plays in our life. We sang several songs, including my very favorite "O Holy Night", and our pastor preached a short sermon about THE Light of the World.

A few thoughts that came to mind with the lighting of the candles...

Hope. God is a God of hope. I don't know about you, but I need hope. It seems like this has been a very difficult year. So many financial difficulties. Houses for sale. Lost jobs. Sickness. So much sickness. Cancer has affected two teachers at my school as well as the husband of one of our co-workers. So much sadness. But God is a God of hope. He IS our hope. The more I live on this earth and experience the pain of a human life, the more I long to be with Him. And ultimately, isn't that what He wants? To be with us? To know that we long to be with Him?

Love. That one was easy, or as easy as love gets. I just had to look down the pew to see my true love surrounded by our little loves. Then we came home for a baked potato soup with my parents and my grandmother. The room was full of love. I am so blessed. I forget sometimes, but it is true. So blessed.

Peace. This is the one that nearly had me in a heap of tears. Peace. I long for peace. It seems like recently that is my hope and dream for the new year. Peace. I have the peace of Jesus in my life. But lately I long for peace in our house. I don't want to go in many details, but the last few weeks have not been very peaceful. (Marriage is fine, referring to kiddos here) It seems like many nights I go to bed in tears, trying to figure out what we can do to fix things. Motherhood is not easy. I am hoping that once Christmas is over with, things will settle back down, tempers will calm, tensions will ease. And then maybe I really can have peace. Maybe. :)

So back to my favorite Christmas song.


O Holy Night.

The stars are brightly shining.
It is the night of the dear Savior's birth.



Those words get to me every time.
Actually it just takes the opening note.


Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother.
And in his name all oppression shall cease.



That part always tears me up too. I can't help but think of Guatemala. I remember seeing the oppression, feeling it. And I know that it is not even close to the oppression other parts of the world (even our own country) has.

But the words that almost stop my heart:


Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices!

O night divine, the night when Christ was born;

Fall on your knees. Fall. Just seeing Him, hearing His voice and that of His angels, will cause me to fall on my knees. I think of that scenario often. Lately I have thought of falling to my knees in desperation, in prayer, in search of peace. But one day I will fall on my knees in awe and wonder at His glory.

Wow.

Thank you, God. Thank you for the reminder of who I am, and more importantly, who you are. I needed that tonight.

More later,
Reba

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Why I Do What I Do

I knew as a child I wanted to be a teacher. I cannot explain it, it was just something in my heart from a very young age. I would line my dolls up and try to teach them. When I was in elementary school, my teachers would let me have their old textbook teacher manuals to play school with at home. And I did so, faithfully. I don't think anyone was surprised when I graduated and decided to major in elementary education. Now here it is, 18 years later, and I still can't imagine doing anything else.

I am not going to claim to be the world's greatest teacher. I don't have all of the answers and am not an expert at much of anything. In fact, I think I learn more every year than my students do. :) Having kids of my own, I can't and don't devote every second of my day to the classroom. Teaching does consume a lot of time and energy, but I do have a family that needs that time and energy too. I doubt many of my students will grow up and think, "Wow, my kindergarten teacher...she really changed my life." I do try to bring fun to learning but I am not a "stand out". I do not have an amazing voice, I am not wild and overly creative, I am not a stand up comedian. I am just one teacher out of many who loves what I do and who I do it for.

This time of year, it can be easy to be weary. We have all of the pushes and pulls of Christmas obligations, family obligations, social obligations, church obligations. And the students...well, they get a little on the energetic side as thoughts of Christmas wishes (and probably the sweet sugar of Christmas treats) consume their every thought. Meanwhile, my energy level goes down drastically as I stay up late trying to get something accomplished (often without much success). Yet even in the midst of all of that, I was reminded this past week just why I do what I do...here are a few reasons (of many).
  • Where else but an elementary school could I have a pajama day (all day at school in my comfy and warm pj's and slippers) and a Christmas carol singalong assembly as we wind down the first semester?
  • The sparkling eyes of my students as they used a variety of sprinkles, candies, and frostings to decorate their own gingerbread men...priceless.
  • Assessing a student to find out that he/she had learned almost all letters and sounds in the last few weeks...took that child to the office to let the principal and office staff ooh and aah over him/her as tears rolled down my face. I wish I could take credit for the learning but all I provided were tools; the student did the rest!
  • The students eager faces as they presented me with gifts (some chocolate, an ornament, a scarf, a shawl, a Christmas platter), waiting for me to open them up.
  • Hearing from a student's mom that when asked what was going to happen that day, she didn't say "our Christmas party" but rather, "Yes, I get to eat lunch with my teacher!" (Purchased through a silent auction at our school fundraiser)
  • Seeing our hallways lined with food, clothing, and toys to go to our families in need...all donated by faculty, students/families, and partners in education.
  • Enjoying a faculty lunch provided by our wonderful PTA
  • Crying together over fellow workers dealing with tough issues (I HATE CANCER)
  • Visiting a co-worker who had surgery this week and watching her eyes light up as she opened cards and gifts from her students and co-workers
  • Merrily waving goodbye to my students as we departed for our two week holiday break only to have one sweet child throw her arms around me and say sadly and firmly, "I am going to miss you, Mrs. Cloud!"

That is why I do what I do...

Reba

Thursday, December 16, 2010

All I Want for Christmas Is...

Dear Santa,
I have been really good this year. Well, mostly. Okay, kind of. Just don't ask my kids. Or my husband. Or possibly my students depending on the day. Just take my word for it.

I am writing to you, Santa, with my wishlist. After all, you can do miraculous things. I realized that when one of my children asked for an i-Pad and assured me that Santa did not need money for that...his elves will simply make it. If you can do that (can doesn't mean "would"), then you can surely bring me a thing...or two...or six.

Oh, and dearest Santa, these are in no particular order. Of course, if you bring all of them, it won't be a problem. :)
1. One extra room in our house. Maybe two. A bedroom so those girls do not have to share a room (nor do we have to listen to the grumblings of how they share a room) and one more bathroom. Of coruse, some days I wonder why we have two bathrooms since somehow in the morning they all end up in ours...right in front of my mirror!
2. An extra hour or two a day.
3. One, just one, of our children to be quiet and self-sufficient. Just one.
4. An extra dishwasher. Seems like the one we have is always going while the dishes build up in the sink.
5. Three days to myself to re-organize my house.
6. Gift certificates to Blog to Print (I think that is the name) so I can get paper copies of what I have said in the past, more than likely words I will have to eat.
7. Peace on earth. I always have a word of the year. One year it was contentment. 2011's word is peace. I yearn for it.
8. To like vegetables. I know they are good for me. I know I will live longer if I eat more of them. And I know that almost all of them (other than a select few in the raw state) make me gag.
9. Our family beach vacation. We are downsizing our vacations this coming year to take care of some other expenses. But come February, when I am looking out at the dreary winter scene, I will want to plan that beach vacation. Not to mention, how do I do a family calendar every year without 700 beach pictures to choose from for the summer months?
10. NO snow. None. I know that others probably have that high on their list. Why don't you help them vacation in a snowy place? After the last two years, I am done with any frozen precipitation. None. I want none. I guess I really should take this one up with God...
11. A Mountain Dew (not diet) that is not fattening.
12. For scientists to discover that five minutes of exercise a day is all your body really needs
13. A lifetime supply of Ghirardelli Dark Chocolate squares with caramel. Please don't bring milk chocolate. It is not the same as dark.
14. One child to become more independent, another to become more "yielding" to those in authority, one to become more responsible, and another to become a bit more humble. Is that asking too much? :)
15. A little more energy to keep up with my crew.

Santa, my list could go on and on, as you probably already know since you see me when I am sleeping, and you know when I am awake...you probably know that I would write more but I am falling asleep at the keyboard.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Wrapped Up in Books

I know I have mentioned our Christmas book tradition before. However, I would say it is one of the topics we still get the most questions about...other than adoption maybe. :)

It all started when our firstborn was a baby. I read about the book tradition in a magazine and decided to start it. I gathered 25 children's books about Christmas, wrapped them up, and had him open one a night starting December 1. Then we would read the book.

It added a little excitement to the Christmas season plus hopefully inspired a love for reading. :) (Yes, he is still a huge reader.)

Then along came child 2. Now we were wrapping 50 books at the end of November. A bit much, but very "doable".

Of course, you can do the math. We now have four kids. Simple math...4 kids, 25 books each means 100 books in all.

So here are the questions we get asked (along with my answers :)...

Do you buy new books each year?

Oh, goodness no. We are not rich people by any means. Even if we did have that much extra money around, we wouldn't do it. We save them. I have two tubs of Christmas books. I have picked up many of them at bookstore sales or through school book orders. We keep the tubs in the garage or attic until late November. If I buy books throughout the year, I just stick them to the side until it is time to wrap. (Right now, I have a box of books that the kids have outgrown. Now I am saving them for grandchildren WAY down the road. :)

How do you wrap them?
Well, I use cheap wrapping paper (usually in the "dollar spot" at Target). Each child has their own paper; I try to match personality. Child 1 loves the color red (something about the Razorbacks), so his is always red. Child 2's is whimsical with pink somewhere on it. Child 3's favorite color...no joke...is black. So this year her paper is black with pictures on it. And the youngest gets Santa Claus paper this year. Our wrapping is not precise. In fact, I make one cut for each book. That is it. Then I wrap from there. (One year my husband decided we should just use large gift bags for each child and let them "draw" out a book each night. It was NOT the same...so wrapping it is!)

When do you wrap them?
Usually November 30. Did I mention we are procrastinators? Every year I think I will wrap earlier than last year, yet I never do. I have considered wrapping them in July when I have more time on my hands but the problem is that I am never quite sure which books I will use from year to year depending on the kids' ages and interests. Oh, this year, I got about a week's worth wrapped before December 1, then finished wrapping the rest this weekend.

What kind of books do you use?
I have a pretty good collection of Christmas books. Some focus on Christ's birth/the Nativity. Others are more "commercial", focusing on Santa Claus. I think there is a good mixture. As the kids get older, I have had to buy several Christmas chapter books for the "big kids". They all get some version of "Twas the Night Before Christmas". The oldest may have books about the Christmas Carol while the youngest's may involve popular characters like Clifford or Elmo. The funny thing is that each child (with the exception of child 4 who hasn't figured out the book patterns yet) has certain books that are "theirs" in their mind. Child 1 has one book he wants to open on his birthday every year. It is a tradition. I don't know why that book, but he counts on it. And already this year I have heard child 2 say (after child 3 opened a book), "Oh, I loved that book!"

Why do you do this (go to all of this work)?
I love reading. I also love gifts (giving and receiving). This tradition lets me "marry" the two. I love the look of surprise when the children open up their books, as well as the time we get to spend reading together (well, the younger ones anyway...the big kids take their books to read on their own :). It is a lot of work but it is a tradition I hold onto dearly. It is a special tradition for the kids; they anticipate this each year. So therefore, it is special for me!

At what age do you stop?
I have no idea. I have been pondering this as child 1 gets older. But he still enjoys this tradition, so obviously this isn't the time to stop. I guess we will just know when it is.
But for now, we are wrapped up in books!

Reba

Sunday, December 5, 2010

To Do List

Oh, the To Do List...

Will it ever end?

Create Christmas picture cards

Write a holiday letter

Address 125 or more cards

Write a personal note on each holiday letter

Fold letters, insert cards, seal envelopes

Stamp envelopes

Mail them (as opposed to last year when I gave up after our cards were stolen)

Double check the "Christmas gift database"

Shop, shop, shop

Finish wrapping 100 Christmas books (over halfway done at least :)

Make Christmas cookies with kids

Decorate said cookies

Clean up mess after decorating cookies with kids

Decorate tree (no, it is not decorated. It does have lights though)

Finish finding an "ornament of the year" for each of the kids

Decorate house

Visit the square

Finish up details for a child's birthday party (for family)

Wrap presents for birthday child's birthday

Make a birthday cake

Shop and cook a birthday meal

Get in the holiday spirit

Catch up on the blog.

Plus all of that other stuff, like cooking, cleaning, organizing, mothering, etc...

How about you?

Reba

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Little Things Part 2

Just a few more things that I am thankful for (the "little things" in life)...

  • my elliptical. It is the main way I can exercise. I often find a cooking show (ironic I know) to watch while I move on the elliptical.
  • Quarters. I don't know why. I just like having them.
  • Finding a five dollar bill in your pocket and not having any idea where it came from.
  • Newly changed sheets on the bed
  • My heated throw (I am often cold this time of year)
  • My Target pajamas
  • Remote controls
  • Playing Words with Friends (keeps my mind young :)
  • Organizing even one small area of our house
  • The apple corer/slicer
  • Suitcases that roll
  • Migraine Excedrin
  • Pizza and movie nights at home with the family
  • Sunsets
  • My digital camera
  • Blogging (the only way I would ever be able to keep track of our family events
  • Bubbles
  • Redbox (the easiest way for us to rent a movie)
  • Take out. It is sometimes the best way for us to have a "date" but still be at home.
  • A clean garage (or is that a myth???)
  • You!

I could go on and on, but I need to stop and start enjoying my Thanksgiving holiday. (I may be MIA for a couple days...did I mention I like eating? :)

So, what are the little things you are thankful for?

Reba

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

It's the Little Things...Part 1

This time of year, we cannot help but think about how thankful we are for the many blessings in our life. I think if you have read my blog long enough, you can figure out pretty quick what I am thankful for. God. Family. My job. Church. This country. I cannot deny; I have much to be thankful for.

However, these are the "majors". Just as in baseball, there are the "minors"...the little things in life that I am thankful for (totally not serious nor with any depth :)...things like...
  • warm clothes fresh out of the dryer
  • a brand new magazine and a hot bath
  • the 8 ounce cans of Mtn. Dew...gives me a good little taste without adding too much to my waistline
  • fabric softener
  • leftover Halloween candy
  • pumpkin muffins (what on earth would we eat for breakfast every week without them?)
  • pistachios (what on earth would I eat with my breakfast every day???)
  • the cooling pad I have for my laptop. For whatever bright reason, hp decided to put the fan for my laptop on the bottom of the computer. So for a long time, no matter what surface I used, it overheated and would just shut down right in the middle of my work. Now, I have this very thin cooling pad with actual fans inside. My computer hasn't overheated since.
  • the wireless mouse
  • finding a matching set of socks in the dryer (as opposed to the large basket of single socks sitting in the laundry room)
  • the beach
  • DVR...what did I do without that?
  • paperless statements/bills
  • newspapers. Say what you will, but when I am enjoying breakfast or lunch, I want a hard copy of a newspaper to read!
  • Facebook. Where else could I reconnect with a friend from elementary school as well as someone I met last week at a church service?
  • self-stick stamps. I love that I don't have to lick the yucky stamp anymore!
  • Dry erase crayon/marker...produces a lot less dust than chalk! (I still appreciate chalk though because it is important in the development of writing skills)
  • shopping on-line
  • fabric grocery bags (they hold more and are good for the environment)
  • the colors of fall.
  • DVD players for the car for long trips (must be over two hours in our vehicle)
  • olive oil (one of my favorite things to dip bread into)
  • no homework on a Monday night!
  • an empty sink

I know I can come up with more. And I will. But not tonight. I need to hit the hay so I can be ready for our Thanksgiving program (it's a kindergarten thing...) tomorrow.

More later,

Reba

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Dear Dr. Dobson...

Here is my (open) letter to Dr. Dobson...

Dear Dr. Dobson,

Thank you.

Thank you.

Thank you.

Have I said it enough yet?

Thank you.

I sometimes watch other families and wonder, "Why?" I see these children, prim and proper, following their parents' directions without even a syllable of complaint coming from their lips. I watch them in school, sitting so nicely, shining as the teacher's pet. I notice that these are the children always selected as the stars of the play, held up as "leaders" of the school, and that they come home with a birthday party invitation weekly. I also watch those families watch mine with their mouths open in disbelief.

Dr. Dobson, I have felt like for some time, we are doing the things we should for our kids. We taught them to fall asleep independently at a young age. We limit their t.v. watching and don't even let them have caffeine (if you met them, you would understand why). We sit down for dinner almost nightly together (just like the statistics support) and share many family bonding times together, such as hikes, travels, and athletic events. We are loving but very firm, and even more importantly, we are consistent. Consistent in pretty much all we do. We have been determined from the very beginning to not let children run our household.

I guess I didn't think to be determined that they didn't run my emotions.

This is a hard job.

Some people have those compliant children I mentioned above. I imagine they are the ones sitting around, smiling proudly that their children are doing the things they are told, being the people they want them to be.

I am not one of them.

After some soul searching and emotional wrestling with children of mine, I borrowed a copy of your book, The "New" Strong Willed Child. I haven't gotten very far YET. But just the few pages I have read make one thing clear.

Every stinking one of them is a strong willed child in their own way...some more than others. They are very comfortable in their own skin and believe in their own independence. And while I wish I could influence their thoughts, their words, their actions, in the end, they make their own choices.

Sigh.

Don't get me wrong, Dr. Dobson. We love our kids. And we are proud of who they are. After all, they were uniquely designed by God just for our family. We know that these "leadership" qualities will serve them well one day, once they learn how to channel their personalities for good, not for evil. (Not really "evil", it just flowed with the sentence :) Don't get me wrong. It isn't that every moment is a bad moment or filled with strong will.

It is just that more of them are than not. :)

As I read the first few pages, I found myself alternating between laughing and crying. Crying because I could understand. Laughing because I could understand.

More than anything, your book has reminded me that I am not alone. That maybe, just maybe, I am not failing like I often feel. And that families who have only the "compliant" child will never truly understand what our life is like.

Every day I wake up prepared for battle. I am learning to choose my battles carefully. I am also learning that my children do make their own choices (much like we do with God), and that ultimately their choices rest upon them. They are not always a reflection of me or my values.

Yes, there will always be those who judge. "What kind of parent would let their child act like that?" I am guessing those would be the ones with compliant children, not "children who have moments of compliance".

To them I say, try living our life. I say, "Don't judge us unless you have spent a week, a day, or even an hour with a strong willed child." I also say, "Just wait. Your children may be compliant. Or maybe, just maybe, there is a strong will child within who will emerge when you least expect it. Or it could be that your future grandchildren will give you a run for your money, leaving your head spinning.

Know that while our life is not an easy life...it requires decision making and structure and discipline/behavior management all day long...we are stronger people because of it. And our children will hopefully emerge in the end victorious.

So, dear Dr. Dobson, thank you. Thank you for understanding. Thank you for sharing your knowledge. Thank you for letting us know we are not alone.

The Cloud family

PS Okay, maybe a little bit written in tongue and cheek. Please know that much of the time our children are delightful little people with huge potential in life. But some days, I do go to bed feeling defeated. Okay, many days. In the end, we will just be using a lot of prayer to get through each day. :)

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Bah, Humbug!

Please Note: If you are one of those "early Christmas" people, please know I am not judging you in any way. This is one of MY quirks. :) Feel free to decorate or sing carols to your hearts' content.

Back to our originally scheduled program...

It seems like just a few years ago, I would hear complaints about this time of year. "Did you see that _____ (insert name of store of your choice here) already has their Christmas decorations up?" "I was shopping the other day and actually heard Christmas music over the loudspeaker." "What happened to fall? It sounds like Christmas is here already." And yet every year, the stores continue to put up their Christmas decorations before Halloween is over, there are some Christmas lights not only hanging our area but already lit (including a local town hall), and every day I see comments on Facebook asking if it is too early to put up the Christmas tree, who has finished Christmas shopping, etc. And what do I have to say to all of that?

Bah, Humbug!

Don't get me wrong. Christmas is a special time of year. But it has its place. Late December. It isn't even quite mid-November.

What happened to fall? (My favorite time of year) Has Thanksgiving lost its appeal to people? Or have we just become brainwashed by the stores? (Reminds me of the story of how to cook a frog. Put it in water, and slowly...very slowly...turn up the heat. He will get used to it, and never realize he is cooking. Have we done that with Christmas too? Each year it gets earlier and earlier and now we don't even remember when it really is...)

I am holding on to fall with clenched fists. I love this time of year, as the leaves fall from the tree, football games are playing on Friday nights, and the air cools off ever so slightly. I love Thanksgiving. Just thinking about the word brings to mind family, food, friends. That and a few days of lounging.

After Thanksgiving...then I can think about what comes next.

Maybe I have become jaded. The last two Christmases we have dealt with theft...once in our house and the other when our Christmas cards (complete with kid pictures) that had arrived via Fed Ex were swiped from our front porch. (Don't feel bad if you didn't get a car...we ended up not sending them after all of that) Or maybe it is the financial aspect. We are coming off a couple of major spending incidents (neither which we would have chosen), so the thought of spending more makes me a bit queasy. Or maybe it is because I am just tired and living day by day in my Mommy role.

I just know that I am not ready for Christmas. Other than working on some lists and buying a few things (they were on sale), I am just not ready to think that far ahead. There will be no tree up at our house for a few weeks. No Christmas music playing in the background. And the Christmas decorations...well, I still have my fall foliage out. I am just not ready yet. I will be though.

Just let me eat my turkey first.

Gobble, gobble.
Reba

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Pay It Forward

Yesterday one of my co-workers shared about her lunch experience. She and her husband had gone to a local sushi restaurant for lunch. They ordered their food. At some point in the meal, they were told that their meal had been paid for by someone they didn't know...a very pleasant surprise, to say the least. As she was telling her story, we all marveled at the kindness of a stranger.

My first thought was, "Wow, those things really do happen to people!" Yet, when I really think about it, they have happened to us, just in different ways. There was the year that I was rather pregnant with Hunter. I had just come home (newly moved into our first home) from my first baby shower, all excited about our new baby goodies. I could tell by the look on Mark's face that something was wrong. He had just found out that his position at his company had been eliminated without any warning. We didn't panic, or at least he didn't. I am sure I did. That is my personality. He just started looking for a new job right away. Still, I couldn't help but wonder what we were going to do. One night, there was a knock on our door. We answered it, but nobody was there. However, there was an envelope. It contained 100 dollars. We still to this day have NO idea where that money came from, but it was such a sweet gift and much appreciated at a difficult time. (Mark found a job a few days later)

Or there was the day a couple years ago that our t.v. just decided it was done. I am sure it had nothing to do with the fact that it was VERY old and probably used way too much. :) One night I was home alone with the kiddos when I heard a knock on the door. I opened the door to find a t.v. on our front porch. Again, a very generous gesture. (We won the Panasonic Living in HD contest shortly afterwards and got a brand new t.v.)

We also had a couple of donations during our adoption of Maria, both unexpected and both much appreciated. We tried to not ask for money, feeling like it was our decision to adopt. Yet, it was a very expensive process, and any bit of help did not go unnoticed.

All were "pay it forward" moments, someone kindly giving of themselves or their resources to show love and kindness toward us.

We have participated in "pay it forward" moments too. While receiving the gift is very special indeed, giving the gift is an even more precious memory. Giving feels good, especially when done from the heart.

That being said, our "pay it forward" moments (that we initiate) are fairly limited right now. We have just had some extra expenses this past month, expenses that weren't anticipated and unfortunately were not welcome. I would love to give, love to do more right now for some needs I see, but we are going to have to be wise too. (I don't want to sound like we are destitute or stir up some pity...just one of those "leaner" months in the roller coaster ride of finances/life :)

So fast forward a bit. We decided to go out to eat last night at one of my favorite places, Catfish Hole. We haven't eaten there in some time, and I will admit, I wasn't sure we really should go since we have been cutting back a little on spending. But in the end, we decided it was an expense we would budget for. So we went. (I will admit, I had been thinking about it all week after finding out that it suffered a minor fire earlier in the week.)

We ordered our food and talked with the kids, enjoying the hush puppies. Mmm, mmm, mmm...love those hush puppies.

One of the servers passed by our table and smiled at us. She put our ticket down on our table and said something to the effect that we must be special. I glanced at the ticket. "Be blessed, Cloud family." The server then told us that someone had paid for our meal already.

Even as I type it, I cry.

Totally unexpected.

No, we don't know who it was. The server motioned to the other side of the room and said they had already left. The thing is I usually do a quick scan to see if we know anyone. (It is a pretty popular place, and between the two of us, we usually know someone...in fact, we ran into one of our neighbors at one point) I hadn't seen anyone. Yet it was someone who knew us since our name was on the ticket.

(I do hope that whoever was so kind knew that I always get crab legs there :)

One little gesture. One very touched heart. Actually, six touched hearts.

Thanks to someone out there who shared with us last night by paying it forward. We will pay it forward ourselves.

Reba
PS Speaking of Paying It Forward, as I typed this post, I thought about Ms. Carol, whom I mentioned the other day. She did pass away earlier this week, and many hearts are missing her. Yet, even before she died, she "paid it forward" by donating her organs and tissues. It is estimated that 7-9 lives were saved with her organs, and up to 100 people will receive her tissue donations. You can read a little more about her by clicking on her name above. What a special example of "paying it forward", both in life and in death. We miss you, Ms. Carol.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The (Not So) Serious Questions of Life

I could be serious. Could. It has been a humdinger of a day. One sick child. Another one who is pushing all of mamma's buttons right now. Still reeling from the news of Ms. Carol. Piles and piles of laundry. And unexpected bills. Blech. Instead, I am going to be not so serious. Just because I can.

  • Why do my children insist on painting or playing with play dough on the day that we have a clean floor (which will never stay clean during painting or playing with play dough)?
  • How does thirty minutes of exercise sometimes feel like hours to me?
  • Why do I walk into MY bedroom and find children's toys, shoes, clothing in there?
  • When did I stop having my bathroom sink to myself? (And why don't they ever hang out at Daddy's sink?)
  • Did we decide to skip Thanksgiving this year? I hear all about Christmas, see Christmas, etc. Don't we have another holiday to celebrate first?
  • Why are most discipline techniques more work for the parents than the kids?
  • Why do we have Daylight Savings Time anyway? All it does is mess up the sleep patterns AND the shining personalities of my little ones. That and I really dislike it getting dark mid-afternoon!
  • How does God make such amazing sunsets every night? They are different yet all beautiful in their own way.
  • Why do I check my Words with Friends games and not have any that I need to play, then five minutes later I check and all of a sudden I have 14 that are "my turn"? How does that happen?
  • Why is Mtn. Dew not good for you?
  • Can one ever truly be caught up on laundry?
  • Will our spring/summer clothing ever truly be put away? A.k.a. Will I ever see my dining room again?
  • Why does it seem like everyone else's life is a bit more exciting and adventurous? (And full of a lot of things we can't afford to do...)
  • How can I tone down Christmas without looking like I am toning it down?
  • Why do I have all of these blogging ideas but when I lay down at night with the computer sitting on my lap, I fall asleep?

Okay, I better stop for now. I probably need to be up and around and getting ready for school. What are your not so serious questions about life?

Have a good one.

Reba

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Mourning in Joy

I have been a bit ill this weekend. Seems like I caught whatever tummy bug my boys have had. It started Friday night (notice no posts for a couple of days) The good news is that it was the weekend, so I didn't have to miss any school. The bad news is that my weekend is now over, and I have nothing to show for it except some organized digital photos (which you can do in a reclined position) and a smaller e-mail list (cleaning out). We are making very little headway on this mountain of laundry, and my dining room is filled with summer clothes that need to be sorted and put away or given away. Sigh. (Sidenote: I actually started a post yesterday about giving thanks in light of some of the frustrations of life but found myself wallowing in a pity party instead and didn't finish it :)

So this morning, we slept in our extra hour. Or most of us did. Joshua was ready to be awake because I guess to him sunshine (which shines in his darn window) means bedtime is over. Darn time change. Before I jumped up to release him, I rolled over to glance at my e-mail which is something I can do half asleep. However, the first e-mail I read woke me completely up.

It was a prayer request sent out through our church asking for prayer for Mrs. Carol who had suffered a major brain bleed last night and was being taken to ICU. My heart just sank. Mrs. Carol has been a faithful attender at our church for many years. She has a servant's heart. She has taught three of our four in their younger years (like 2 and 3) in Sunday School with patience, humor, and love. I am sure it is just a coincidence that she and her husband "retired" from that position after Maria was in their class. :) I do remember feeling sad that J-man wouldn't get the sweet experience of time with Mrs. Carol.

Just last week, Mrs. Carol organized a crew to clean the mission house in preparation for a missionary family coming for a while. I was so tempted to go (ironic since my own house isn't really that clean :), if anything, just to spend some time with Mrs. Carol. I didn't really get to talk to her often beyond the greetings when I dropped off kids or picked them up, but she is just one of those ladies full of God's love and life's wisdom. In the end, I chose not to go (Lauren's basketball practice rules my schedule right now). Now I regret it. I regret that I didn't go, didn't learn all I could from Mrs. Carol, didn't take the time to tell her how much she has meant to each of us and how thankful we are for her serving heart.

The last report I "heard" was that Mrs. Carol would be meeting Jesus sometime in the next hours, after she fulfilled one last mission in her life...organ donor. Some lives around the country will be changed forever because of one last act of generosity. Even in her death, she is serving her Lord and sharing His love.

And even at our house, her legacy continues.

I am again reminded how fleeting life is. There are NO guarantees of tomorrow. Just yesterday, Mrs. Carol was attending the wedding of a sweet couple from our church. In the blink of an eye, life can be over. I have no doubt she was ready to meet her Maker. I can just picture Him saying to her, "Well done, good and faithful servant." All day I have been pondering, "What would He say to me?"

Tonight at supper, I asked the kids if they remembered Ms. Carol. I got out our church directory (a very old version...Hunter was just a baby in it) and pointed her out. They did remember her; she often sat near us in church. I explained gently the circumstances and asked them to pray for her family. I reminded them that while Ms. Carol will be full of joy crossing over to Heaven, her family here will be very sad and will miss her.

The floodgates opened up. Questions started pouring out, mainly from the two girls. "What is heaven like?" "How do her organs help other people?" "How do you know if you aren't going to heaven?" We had discussions about organ donation, heaven, people we will see in heaven, hell, Christ's return, death, and salvation. I sure don't know all of the answers, and I am not afraid to say that. But I was thankful for that opportunity to share our faith, our beliefs. And I found myself once again thinking, "Thank you, Mrs. Carol, for what you have done for our family."

Well done, good and faithful servant. Well done.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Perfect Parent...

I was the perfect parent...

Until I had kids.

I remember. I remember watching kids in the store. You know the ones. The ones throwing themselves on the floor in a temper tantrum. And in my head, that perfect parent voice said, "I am SO glad that my children will not act like that..."

Until I had kids. And I learned that sometimes kids have meltdowns...often they have meltdowns...and I have no control over when or where they happen. All I can control is how I react to them. Usually with a red face, wanting to sink into the ground, as I grit my teeth and mutter chastising words under my breath (that mean nothing when a child is in that state).

I remember seeing kids come to school without a jacket or a backpack or having empty lunch accounts. And I wondered, "How could those parents let that happen?"

Until I had kids. Sometimes you have all of their things laid out for them and they still walk out of the house without any of it. Or your daughter may just decide she doesn't think it is the slightest bit cold outside, so she ignores your commands to take her jacket. Or she leaves her backpack (and all of her homework) in her daddy's car. Or he doesn't turn in a newsletter that you signed and specifically said, "Turn this in tomorrow" as his head bobbed up and down like a bobblehead.

I remember cringing when I heard parents barking orders at their older children to help with the younger children. I remember thinking, "I will NOT do that."

And I will say, most of the time I don't...totally. I try not to bark. And I am thankful for kids who are more than willing to help. But sometimes I do have to ask for help. Sometimes. Because sometimes I cannot be in more than one place at one time. Usually.

I remember using "Fashion Plates" to draw pictures of myself as a mom. Remember those things? I really liked playing with them. I would create myself this thin, cute little tennis player with my hair in a ponytail.

Then I had kids. Who am I kidding? I wasn't thin before I had kids. Nor really that cute. And who has time to mess with long hair?

I watched children make really poor choices at school. And I would think, "I bet this kid runs their house...where is the parent?"

Then I had kids. Sometimes you give all of the tools, all of the lessons about life and making good choices. And sometimes they don't. And they aren't running our house. We keep a fairly tight rein over here. But they are still their own people, in charge of their own decisions. I have said before, here I am with a perfect God, and I sometimes make really poor decisions. Why do I think my children with imperfect parents are going to make better ones?

I was the perfect parent. I read lots of books. I studied child development. I know the "right things" to do. I keep up on the latest research. We started reading to Hunter in utero. He was going to be this genius. All of our kids would...

Then I had kids. And they are all smart...in their own way. Hunter was slow to talk, even after all of the talking we did with him. (I know, you would NEVER know that now) While at least two have become wonderful readers (who truly love reading), none have been early readers by any means. We give them all of these tools and resources and experiences, but honestly...they develop at their own rate.

I just knew that once I had kids, I would have it all "together". We would have this organized house. The kids' friends would hang out at our house because I would be the "cool" mom.

Then I had kids. Let's be honest. I wasn't cool before I was a mom. Not sure why I thought being a mom would suddenly make me "cooler". Or whatever the proper word is these days. Organized? Hmmm...I don't think I ever thought about exactly how much stuff six people could have to keep up with! Right now my dining room is filled with clothes I need to organize as we switch out the seasons. And I do want to be the house where kids hang out, but right now, I am doing good to keep our family and the house up, much less add many people to the mix.

I was the perfect parent. In my mind, I was. I talked in a quiet voice. I handled discipline appropriately every time. I knew exactly what to do in any situation, sharing the wisdom I have gathered in life. I laughed easily. I gave "Rudy" kind of speeches to encourage them in becoming all they can be.

Then I had children. Nobody told me. I didn't know about Mommy guilt. And that this would be the hardest job I would ever do. That some days I would raise my voice and say all of the wrong things. That often I feel absolutely UNWISE, totally unsure how to handle situations that arise. That some days I would go to bed (most days) feeling like a complete failure. That I would look at these faces and wonder why God thought I was the one for the job.

I was the perfect parent once upon a time.

Then I had kids.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Back to the Basics

Let me just be blunt. Parenting is honest. I joke that I was a much better parent before I actually had children. That is because I really thought that if I did things a certain way, was a certain kind of mother, my kids would be these beautiful little creatures that brought joy to the world. I will admit that I naively would look at children who were misbehaving or causing problems, and I would think, "Oh, the parents must not be doing something quite right..."

I don't believe in karma, but if I did...well, it bites.

Sorry. I shouldn't have said that. And I still could erase it but I won't. I am too tired to erase it. And I meant it. I still shouldn't have said it quite like that.

Anyway, I apparently forgot a couple of factors.

I am not perfect. I want so much to be perfect, to a fault really. But I am so not. And my attempts at being a perfect parent have failed big time. I rarely make lunches and even more rarely put in sweet notes of love and adoration. Lauren does that for me sometimes in Maria's lunchbox (who despises getting them :). I haven't made a Halloween costume in years. I don't have big birthday parties for my kids. I yell sometimes and sometimes say the wrong things. And when met with some challenges, I sometimes feel like I am grasping at straws as to what to do, how to handle them.

The other factor? These children. They have their own personalities. What works for one doesn't work for another. Ultimately, they make their own decisions.

And really, how could I not know that? After all, at the beginning of time, human time, God created this amazing earth. And He brought forth some amazing creatures...animals, plants, etc. Finally, he created (out of dust) a man and then brought forth a woman to complete the picture. And they had this incredible garden to live in. They had no jobs they were required to do. There was no war, no sickness, no death. No sadness, no hunger, no fatigue. It was a perfect place. And God was and is the perfect Father. Yet even with all of this in front of them, what did that man and woman do? They made their own decision to eat of the ONE tree that God told them not to touch. And then life was never the same.

If two people, grown ups no less, made such poor decision even with a perfect heavenly Father, what on earth will my children do with a very imperfect mother?

We also have our own circumstances that may differ from the usual household. We have two children who are not only dealing with our expectations in their life but also dealing with shadows of their past. Any adopted child, no matter who they are, how old they were when they came home, and how much they are loved, struggles with feelings of loss and pain. Some more than others.

All that to say, parenting is hard. Sometimes I do all of the things I think I should do, but ultimately my kids make their own decisions. Sometimes I am proud of their decisions, other times I am left shaking my head in wonder and dismay.

So what do I do? I cry. I pout. I question every word, everything I have done or said. I compare and wonder why other families look so more normal than ours does. I share my worries with friends and seek any solutions I can.

This morning I was thinking about one child who has been a bit more challenging recently. I was going through all of the things I have just mentioned, wondering why, what can I do to fix things, how can I be such a failure as a parent...

And God stopped me.

Pray, Reba.

Um, what, God? I do pray. Almost every night before they go to sleep, I pray with the kids and specifically pray for the challenges we face.

No, Reba. Not with them. Pray for them.

Uh, God, I do that too. Maybe not every day. Maybe just when I am at the point of desperation. But I do.

Reba...Reba...(Do you think God shakes His head when He speaks to us like I do when I am dealing with my children?). Pray for them. Earnestly. Not in passing. Not when the whim hits. Be intentional. Truly pray. And don't just pray...listen. Let Me work. Trust that I am in control.

So that is my goal. To pray. Often and unceasingly. Specifically for each child. And to listen. To truly hear what He says as He guides me through this crazy thing called life.

Hold me to it, dear friend(s).

Reba

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Way We Were

This Tuesday, we will celebrate our 14th wedding anniversary. I have been thinking about several anniversaries we have had since our wedding day...

Like our first anniversary. We had just moved to NWA earlier in the summer (well, I had...Mark had lived here some while I finished out the school year in LR). I was in my first year of teaching at the school where I still teach (fifth year in all). We had just had parent/teacher conferences and I was battling allergies in a big way. We had a weekend away in Eureka Springs, not far down the road (not sure what we were getting away from...we were childless). And I could barely talk. We had fun, I think, but I may have put a damper on the mood when I announced (on this trip) that I thought my biological clock was ticking and maybe we should have a baby. :) I am not sure Mark said much the rest of the trip. True, we had said we would wait three or four years, but you know, a girl can change her mind...

I don't remember much about our second anniversary. We probably didn't have the money to do much of anything. We had just moved into our first house. And I was about 7 months pregnant (though we didn't know at the time who we were having :). Mark was in a new job, then switched jobs again shortly afterward.

I don't remember every anniversary (aren't you thankful?). I know we have gone to Branson a time or two for the weekend. One year, we just went away for a night at a hotel in a neighboring city. Child 3 had joined our family a few months prior, and she was VERY clingy. So getting away was a nice treat. One year, Mark surprised me with a night away at a Bed and Breakfast nearby. Another year we just stayed at home as a family. I made dinner, then attempted a chocolate pound cake. Well, the cake turned out fine, but then I decided to clean out the oven with "self-cleaning" mode which apparently was a bad idea since some of the cake batter had spilled over. I ended up smoking us out of the house (I don't think there was actually fire...); thankfully it was a nice evening as we hung outside in the fresh air. Another year we spent our anniversary (as a family) in the Memphis area, celebrating our friend Cole's No Mo Chemo party as he finished up treatment for leukemia. We visited the Memphis zoo (a favorite) and ate at Joe's Crab Shack. Last year, we dropped the kids off at my parents' house for a night at home alone. We had our first meal at Theo's (YUM) and then went on a hike the next day at Devil's Den. It was a lot of fun in 24 hours.

This year...we really thought we would have a weekend away in New York City. Mark has been before, but I haven't. It is high on our list of places to visit. We have talked about it off and on. In the end though, at least at this point in time, life is too busy and NY is too pricey. So we are at home. (We have some special plans for our actual anniversary this week but right now, there is rain in the forecast for that day which would ruin our plans...)

And that is okay.

Oh, New York would have been a lot of fun, but the truth is, we have fun no matter where we are (even when there are screaming kids in the background).

And being together is what really matters.

Maybe next year, Big Apple!
Reba

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Late Breaking News

Not really. I mean, I have no late breaking news to share. Didn't want rumors to get started. :)

I am referring to the miner situation...the big rescue. Wow. That is really all I can say. Wow. (Of course, you know me, I will say more anyway :)

I have lightly followed the situation in the news but unfortunately it all started around the start of school so life was a bit crazy at that time. I missed a lot of it. It has just been the last few weeks I have understood what these men were dealing with. And it amazes me. I am fairly claustrophobic, so the thought of being underground that long in the dark makes me ill to my stomach. That makes me just sit here in awe in itself that they did it...and did it well.

There there is the rescue. All of this technology, and yet it was a simple pulley system that brought that first miner to surface (I do realize technology was responsible for helping figure it all out). I actually missed the first rescue since I wasn't familiar with the time difference between our two countries. Thank goodness for the many proclamations on Facebook; I was able to watch the next two rescues. This morning, while we were getting ready for school, we turned it on and caught another one (a big treat since we NEVER turn on the TV in the morning).

At school, during calendar time, I shared with my students about what was happening. Then I turned on the t.v. to see if we could catch one of the rescues. It was in between, but a few minutes later, we caught it. It was very sweet sharing that moment with my students. Of course, I talked alot about how hard this must have been for their families, how long it had been, etc. When the wife of miner 14 started to cry, my students were touched. One yelled out innocently (and correctly), "Those are happy tears!" And they were. Another one commented about how much they would miss their family if they were apart that long. It was very sweet and very "deep thinking" for kindergarten. I really enjoyed sharing that moment with them.

Later this afternoon, I turned on the t.v. after school and watched any chance I had. I missed several, but I saw several...including the last three. Even child 3 was plopped down in front of the t.v. (being very quiet so I might not notice her bedtime :). And even at the end, I could only shake my head (with tears in my eyes) and say, "Wow."

I am so thankful that there are happy endings still.

Aren't you?
Reba
PS For a couple more happy endings or at least happy moments, I would encourage you to read Bonnie's latest post and our sweet friends J and A's latest post...

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Healing Hearts

I feel like I walk a fine line with blogging some days. I want to share my heart, be honest, and hopefully connect with someone who will say, "I know. I know what you mean!" On the other side, I never want to embarrass my children or share too much. I don't want to use the blog as a political forum or as a way to retaliate against others when I am angry, tempting as that is on occasion. So many thoughts that cross my mind and are just itching to make it to the screen never do.

Which leads me to today's post which will be very brief. And will be much a tightrope experience, walking that line I mentioned above.

I forget sometimes. And then a comment is made and I remember.

Today we saw some pictures of babies in Guatemala. They showed up on my Facebook page via a friend. The babies had been abandoned at the hospital. Three precious faces. (not related that I am aware of) Sadly, there are no current adoptions with Guatemala, so the babies are headed to a hogar/orphanage to live for now and possibly years to come. I am sure the hogar is a wonderful place (from what I have seen), but life in an "institution" is not life in a family.

The kids happened to notice. The youngest is always curious about pictures. Child 2 wanted us to bring them home. And Child 3...

A few minutes later, I heard her voice. "Do you think they miss their mommy?"

I assured her I thought they did.

And then I remembered.

In my heart, child 3 is our family. She was brought to us.

But in her heart, she belongs to two families. One family she knows, the other is just a vision in her mind made up of memories and ideas I have shared (with little information to go on).

And that is always there. I always try to be open about it all when it does come to surface, but when it buries in her heart again for a while, it slips my mind...

I forget sometimes.

There is so much more to this story. Some I will share later, other parts I will keep hidden in my heart.

More later,
Reba

Thursday, October 7, 2010

No Superwoman

I had a little discussion with a friend/co-worker of mine who is currently battling breast cancer (and still teaching). She recently wrote a post on her own blog about how she wasn't the Superwoman that others made her out to be. I had to laugh because I was one of the people who suggested she was. She had had chemo one day and was at our teacher in-service the next. I thought that was pretty deserving of the title Superwoman. I really think so much of it is that I am in awe of what she does because I could only hope that if I were ever in that situation, I would be the same way. But I am not sure I would. (Not hoping to find out any time soon...)

All that to say, I often get the same thing. "Wow, Reba, I don't know how you do it!" "Four kids and a job? How?"

And I completely understand what my co-worker meant.

I am no superwoman.

I am far from it.

I have piles of laundry that need to be done.

My dining room is filled with clothes that need to be switched out for the fall...except of course, once I did that, it got warm again.

Some days I cook, other days I don't.

My youngest daughter hardly ever takes a lunchbox to school; we don't think to check until the morning.

On any given day, if you asked me where something was, I may or may not know. I almost always find what I am looking for, but it may take all day.

We have WAY too much clutter.

Exercise? Only if you count hiking on the weekends.

Quiet times? That would be at breakfast time when it is anything BUT quiet and I have four kids all trying to get my attention.

Well behaved children? Depends on the day...the hour...the moment. I am realizing more and more that we can teach them the right things to do but ultimately they are their own person. Please remember that if you see them not being the people I want them to be!

Star teacher? No. :( I love what I do, but I am not at every school event, am still working on classroom organization, and sometimes I am puzzled at how to help kids the most.

I could go on and on, but in another example, it is morning, I fell asleep last night, and once again, I failed to post the thoughts swirling in my head. Now I must get up and going for the day.

I wish I could be Superwoman. I could use some of those powers. Maybe then I wouldn't walk around with a load of stress on my shoulders, my stomach tight from the stress. Maybe then I would have the house I dream of (as in organized and inviting). Maybe then I would be about fifteen pounds lighter. Maybe then I wouldn't wonder all day which child had a bad day or if I am failing in the parenting department.

More later,
Reba

Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Sunset Project

I mentioned not long ago that the sunsets recently have just captivated me. They continue to do so.

This fascination in God's artwork each night has developed into the Sunset Project for me.

Basically, I try to capture the sunset each night via camera. I considered setting up a separate blog and posting a picture daily but I am not sure there are many out there who are interested in an unprofessional photographer's poor attempt to capture the beauty of the skies every night.

Still, I click away on the camera. The main reason is because it makes me stop and take just a few minutes each day to truly behold and consider God's greatness. It also is a reminder to me that there is beauty around even when I cannot see it (like after a rough week of allergies, conferences, and other health stuff). Even our little guy often runs out with me to take pictures (I promise my neighbors I am not crazy or stalking...just trying to get a photo of the sky), exclaiming, "It is so beautiful, huh, Mommy?"

And it is.

Here are just a few pics from recent days. Remember, I do not claim to be a photographer. And I am pretty sure no camera could truly do it justice...but I try anyway. :)The cloud in the sky absolutely amaze me. They are so beautiful, especially with the sunlight behind them!


I love that you can actually see the rays of the sun in this one.
More later,
Reba

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Short-n-Sweet

Once again, it is late (or early, depending on your definition), and I should be heading to bed. But I feel like such a slacker when I don't post. So here are a few things I want to remember:

  • I want to remember to NEVER go in the woods on a hot day without some kind of bug spray on. I have chigger bites on almost every square inch of my legs, even though I was wearing capris that day. They are miserable little creatures that are making me a miserable not so little creature.
  • I need to remember that child 2 lost yet another tooth yesterday. If only I had paid more attention in my health classes, I might know exactly what kind of tooth she lost. It was on the bottom and that is about all I know.
  • I am going to remember that this morning, child 2 shared with me that yet again the tooth fairy had left her money under the mattress...that Dad had to discover it much like I did the last time. Silly tooth fairy. Under the pillow. It goes under the pillow.
  • I want to remember how our youngest looked at Mark who was about to go outside to finish that darn basketball goal and advised, "You better wear a helmet..." (Not an original...I think big brother may have said it first)
  • I am going to remember how my two big kids played basketball on the back porch until daylight was gone with not too much arguing and no tears (that I know of).
  • I want to remember that I was so worried about our oldest and middle school. Or maybe it was ME and middle school. And it hasn't been completely smooth sailing. But I need to remember the moment I received an e-mail from a teacher...complete surprise. The note shared a presentation our son had helped develop (in a team effort) with words of praise. My heart needed that.
  • I am going to remember that after a very long afternoon of the youngest being VERY three, he came up beside me and said sweetly, "I still love you, Mama..." I will also remember thinking that same thing about him. :)
  • I hope I remember how our kids (especially the two young ones) go around singing praise songs. Nothing like watching your six year old belt out "Savior, He can move the mountains" at the top of her lungs in the kitchen.
  • I need to remember to enjoy the times I feel really good because right now I don't (blaming the allergies). Wishing I had appreciated feeling good more.
  • Need to remember how we were getting on to a couple of kids who were singing at the table (against house rules for dinner) when the youngest belted out in this song "Bow chicka wow" in full volume and drama. It is NEVER dull around here.
  • I want to remember the beautiful sunsets we see every night...I need to remember to treasure each one. They are all so different but yet all created by the same Creator.
  • I need to remember that I am not getting younger or thinner...I need to get up early each day to exercise. Otherwise, I will be paying the piper.
  • I want to remember to enjoy tomorrow night. Basketball hasn't started, and there is no football practice either. We can just be a family. No chauffeuring, no trading off. A rarity these days.
  • I need to remember that we are making progress at school, that sometimes the steps are tiny baby steps but we are getting there. I also need to remember the proud smiles as I high fived a couple of students today who remembered something we had been practicing.
  • The one thing I don't want to remember is the vote/election yesterday. I am ashamed of our community and their mindset. I remember how important the future of our children are...apparently several people don't!

More later,

Reba

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Words Sweeter than Honey

Yes, two posts in ONE day. I did do a Part II to my "Heads Up" entry. I know you won't want to miss that dramatic ending. :)

I just have to type this so I can remember it one day when I am on my knees in tears over an ornery child. That will happen. I can guarantee. Probably tomorrow. But just for today, I will bask (is that how you spell it) in the sweetness of these words...

This morning I was running around trying to get ready. Our youngest always eats longer than us, usually because he piddles while the rest of us are eating. So often, he ends up eating his breakfast alone while the rest of us get ready. However, he won't take TOO long because he wants to "beat" Mark by getting dressed first.

So shortly after I started getting ready, I heard that frantic, "Mom! I want down!" Yes, the child is still in a high chair. Since he is of short stature, the high chair gives him the height he needs. Plus, our breakfast table doesn't have that many chairs. Yet I don't think he is ready to sit in a dining room chair...

As usual, I digress.

He is NOT known for his patience. He has NONE. So before I even have a chance to breathe, the "Mom, I want down" sounds get louder and louder. I kept responding, "I am coming" to no avail. It wasn't in a split second, so he was frantic.

Finally I went to his chair to clean him up. As I did, I chided him on the way he had been impatient. I didn't really even do it in a very upset voice. I just reminded him that he is one of four kids in our family and that I do the best I can do.

Then it came.

He looked at me with these sweet eyes. And he said, "Can I say I am sorry?"

I was a bit taken aback. He will say he is sorry with a LOT of prompting. That is if he isn't feeling overly prideful. But it is rarely if ever a voluntary thing. I agreed that he could.

"Mommy, I am sorry for yelling at you." End of apology.

I picked him up and hugged him. Then he asked, "Does that make God happy when I say sorry?"

I cannot speak for God, but I will for me/us. I had a grin on my face all morning...

Heads Up Pt. 2

Let's see. I know you were on the edge of your seat all day wondering what happened to my dear husband and his busted head. So let me finish the story and end the suspense...

Where was I? Oh, yes, the whole to go to the ER or not to go to the ER...that is the question...

That is basically what I posed on Facebook as we left to go to my parents' house. It wasn't very nice to just leave a dangler like that as my status update. However, I didn't really have a lot of time to elaborate either.

So we headed over the river and through the wood...well, not really. Down the hill and past the park might be more accurate. :) Sorry, I am trying to alleviate some frustration (election results) through humor. Anyway, we finally got to my parents' house.

Our thought was that rather than sit in the ER, we could just wait until Monday (the next day) to have Mark run to the doctor's office. After all, it wasn't bleeding profusely, and I was pretty sure he didn't have a concussion. We took a survey (of my parents). Mom was undecided, Dad said, "Go to the ER."

Around that time, I decided to check in on Facebook and clarify. I didn't want to be cruel (because I know that people were just hanging on for every word... :). When I did, several people had recommended a local hospital I had never even heard of. I checked out the website. Fairly new. I had Mark call. They said they did take his insurance. So we hopped in the car (with me driving...rare!) and headed to this hospital.

We walked in the "ER". It was rather small, but here is the part I liked. We were the ONLY people in the room. It probably took me longer to fill out the paperwork than for the actual visit.

Have you ever seen Scrubs? That is what our experience was like. Just like Scrubs. Comical.

Our doctor...he was hilarious. The nurses were funny. (My favorite is when they had to ask Mark if he felt safe in the home...it was on the form. We told them as safe as you can feel with four kids :) We laughed quite a bit.

In the end, joking aside, Mark received two staples in his head (no numbing beforehand) AND a tetanus shot.

Ask him today which hurts more. It is the arm where he got the shot. By a landslide.

The bigger hurt might have been the check we had to write for visiting the ER.

As we drove away from the hospital (which is where I will go from now on, though I hope not to need to!), we saw the most beautiful sunset. The sun was a big red ball sinking in the sky. It looked like a scene from Japan. Only in the US. Just amazing.

So that is what we did. Drove off in the sunset, one of us with a stapled head.

Can't get any better than that, can we?

Reba

Monday, September 20, 2010

Heads Up

It started off an innocent enough Sunday (which is how Sundays should start off...). I will admit, I kind of wanted to stay at home (instead of going to church) just for a little extra rest time. But duties awaited, and I had no choice but to get up and go worship with a sincere heart.

So...

Hi ho, hi ho, it is off to church we go...

We arrived at church, dropped kiddos off, then we went to our own Sunday School class.

I should probably interject that child 4 is handling his new class beautifully. He clings to me a little bit when we first walk in but he is good about separating now and smiles as I walk out the door. Oh, and he is learning Bible verses. I don't think he will ever forget Genesis 1:1. We hear it alot.

Anyway, for this particular Sunday, I was scheduled to help out in the nursery with newborns (to about six months old) for the Second Hour. Typically, our family assists, but there are rules about children helping out with the littlest babies. So I signed up with a friend of mine in a similar situation. The plan was for Mark to go on to church with the other kids while I rocked babies all morning. :) Unfortunately, our plan took a bit of a turn when we were needed in child 4's class, so that is where Mark and the other kids ended up Sunday morning. I am pretty sure I had more fun. :)

I just have to say, I LOVE rocking babies. And the newborn stage is one of my favorites. I know, I know, a lot of people don't like that stage because there is so little activity. They eat, they sleep. I think that is what I love about it. I am pretty sure that heaven will consist of rocking sleeping babies all day long.

After church, we headed home for a little R and R. We ate some of this, some of that, then it was naptime...my favorite part of a Sunday afternoon. While the little ones (and eventually I) went down for a nap, Mark and the big kids went out to the backyard to assemble our daughter's basketball goal. She got it for her birthday. In June. And she has reminded us of this every single weekend since.

A while later, I woke up and settled into my comfy chair with the i-Touch to catch up on e-mails and play my turn on Words with Friends (which is addictive by the way). I heard kind of a banging noise, but around here with four kids, it wasn't a sound that truly fazed me. Then I heard my dear husband tell our daughter to come get me. Again, no alarm in his voice, and she never really did come in. I finished up an e-mail and decided I better make sure all was fine.

I walked out the back door to find the goal on the ground and Mark with blood on his hands. "Get me a clean rag please."

I thought, "Oh, he cut his hand..." And I retrieved a clean rag. When I brought it, he told me it needed to be cold and wet. Men. Do they think I can read their minds?

When I returned with a clean, cold, wet rag, THAT is the point that said husband told me that the goal had fallen and he was bleeding...from the back of his head.

Thankfully for him, I am not squeamish (unless it involves vomit which I still cannot deal with).

I won't go into details for the rest of the world that IS squeamish. I will say that there was a nice size opening on the back of the head. We came inside, he stretched out on the floor, and I applied as much pressure as I could while warding off the littlest one who was very curious about what was going on.

Then we started that game. I am not good at this game. To go to the ER or not got to the ER, that is the question.

And on that note, I am going to have to stop. And this can be a "To be continued episode" of the Cloud Crew...

Reba

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Faith of a Child

Sorry, this is a repeat of a story off of Facebook. But I want to remember it.

Yesterday the older kids and I were stretched out on the floor playing Uno. Our youngest was working on a puzzle nearby. He kept walking across his brother's back. His brother would moan and groan (dramatically). Finally, one time, his brother proclaimed, "Oh, my stomach. My stomach hurts!" Child 4 plopped down next to him and put his hands on his brother's back. "God is great. God is good. Let us thank Him for our food. Amen." Then he gave his brother a kiss and declared, "All better!"

More later,
Reba

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Facing the Truth

The other day after church, we were determined to go to our favorite pizza joint. I had been thinking about it all weekend long. When we got there, it was a bit busier than usual. Our usual table was taken. (Don't they know that it is OUR table??? :) Somehow we managed. We got settled in. Then the wait began. (Did I mention it was busier than usual?)

When I am on a date with hubby, unless I am starving (or think I am), I don't mind waiting here and there. In fact, I kind of enjoy that one on one time. It is a rare treat. Even when we went to D.C. (one of my favorite trips) with just the older kids, a wait wasn't as big a deal. However, with the whole crew...a wait puts a sense of terror in my heart.

Suddenly I become the entertainer. I answer a million questions from child 3 and distract child 4 every chance I get. It honestly wears me out. Not to mention the multiple trips to restroom, the rationing out of crackers, answering "When will the food come out?" over and over.

I know I looked exhausted. And maybe, just maybe, a bit frazzled. I probably even sighed.

Our sweet daughter looked at me.

"That is what you get for having four kids!"

Out of the mouths of babes...

Reba

PS Did have neat opportunity at that same meal to share a little about our adoption with someone who walked up and asked. :)

Monday, September 13, 2010

I Wonder...

I need to do a quick post because I am supposed to be sleeping right now. And I am headed that way. Really, I am...Nothing like starting the week off with a sleep deficit.

Thought I would do a random post...things I wonder about. These won't be serious or in depth at all. I could spend all day wondering about world peace, the state of the economy, social issues. Instead, I find myself wondering about the simpler things in life. Things like...
  • I wonder why a child will drop their dinner plate on a newly mopped floor every single time?
  • I wonder why things will be nice and quiet until I shut the bathroom door...suddenly everyone needs to speak to me?
  • I wonder where the missing socks disappear to in the washer/dryer? (I have a whole basket of unmatched socks)
  • I wonder why the kids feels the need to just drop their clothes on the floor rather than in the laundry basket just a few feet away?
  • I wonder why we always get a warm/hot spell after I have packed away summer clothing? (Wondering in advance because living in Arkansas, I surely know not to do it this early...)
  • I wonder why my kids always act like turkeys the day after I have shared something good about them with others?
  • I wonder why when I start these entries at night, it double spaces my "bullets" but when I try to finish it in the morning, it single spaces them?
  • I wonder why my kids' belongings seem to find their way to my bedroom...stuffed animals, books, bike accessories...?
  • I wonder how I ended up with such LOUD children when we are not really loud parents?
  • I wonder why you hurt as much (if not more) than your kids when they are hurt?
  • I wonder why I always hit every single red light when I am running late?
  • I wonder why the same children who can bring me to my knees in prayer and frustration can also make my heart sing with a simple act of love?

I could wonder all day long but I must get up and ready for school. What do you wonder? (Only lighthearted answers on a Monday. :)

Reba

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

Today was the day. The big Pantene Beautiful Lengths event. It is tied to the LPGA tour which is currently in our area.

All day I had friends at school ask, "Are you ready?" They also asked, "How will you style it?" I had to laugh on that one. There is no styling this hair of mine. It is fine. Have I mentioned HOW fine it is? It doesn't style. It just hangs. There is nothing I can do with it. Trust me, I have tried.

It was a busy day at school. We are finally getting some rain (via the tropical storm on the coast), so kids kept indoors makes for a busy a day. Then we had a faculty meeting after school. Around 4:40, I ran out the door to head to the Pantene event. (I am not an advertiser for Pantene, it is just easier to say that than "beautiful lengths".)

I will admit that I had second doubts on the way there. I was ready for my long hair to be gone. I may have sensory issues or something...cannot STAND the feel of my hair on my back like that. That and it doesn't do anything but hang anyway. At the same time, knowing there would be several people there watching it happen...well, I almost turned around. But I didn't. I thought of Mrs. B and Mrs. P and kept on driving.

When I got to the meeting area, I signed in then went to the "salon" to have my hair pulled back. Thankfully they had several stylists on hand to pull back the hair and measure it. And even more thankfully, eight inches wasn't as short on me as I thought it would be!

Finally, we were lined up to enter the "ballroom". My school group had a special seating area. We even had special capes to wear. Even though I wasn't excited to be up front and center, I was thankful to have some of my school family doing this with me. (Some also did it last week at a school assembly...I think we had 15 participate in all.)

I have a lot more "group" pictures but as you know, I try to be very careful about putting others on the blog without permission. I will say that our donors included some students, including a couple of girls who had NEVER cut their hair before, and a teacher and her twin sister who I believe have not had short hair since they were babies. It was very moving to see ALL of the participants from our area...there were over 100 donors I believe, including some men.
I thought it would be a formal affair, so I was very relieved to find out it was fairly casual. My family ended up sitting on the floor just a few feet away. That was a treat!

This picture just shows how long it had gotten. It was longer than I thought it was. I had to laugh. One of my teacher friends was sitting next to me. Her hair is so thick, she had like 6 ponytails to cut. I had two. And I am pretty sure one of hers was the same size as my 2. Darn fine hair.
Hair today...

Does it look like I am praying for a way out? I was probably trying not to cry. A video was shown highlighting the Beautiful Lengths program. The video also explained why our school was participating. That made me tear up. (Especially with Mrs. B standing behind me a little to the right with a bandana on her head that recently went bald from the chemo she just started...)

Gone tomorrow. In just a few minutes, the hair was snipped off and placed in a bag for safekeeping and donation. My assistant principal was the one who cut it for me.

Last but not least, the "after". I didn't style it or anything. And I have raccoon eyes because I was/am very tired. But you might get the gist...

I will say that thus far, it feels SO much lighter on my head. It ended up being fairly short but it will grow back. I told the stylist, "I am a teacher and a mom to four...I need something easy I can run out the door with." I think this will work. Or at least is a starting point!

Tonight child 2 informed me that she hopes she can do this event next year.
I hope she can too.
More later,
Reba

Sunday, September 5, 2010

He Gives and Takes Away

I apologize for the funkiness of the fonts today. Blogger sometimes has a mind of its own...

There is this song I have always loved to sing.

Blessed be the name of the Lord. Blessed be His name...

One of the choruses of the song is "You give and take away. You give and take away. My heart will choose to say, Lord, blessed be Your name..."

So when I have heard it on the radio or at church, I just blindly sing along. My kids can probably sing alot of it just from singing loudly (and badly) in the car...

Then a couple years ago, Mark and I went to an incredible concert. Michael W. Smith and Steven Curtis Chapman. United Tour. Ironically, in Tulsa. It was an incredible concert. Two of my favorite singers. I always enjoy their concerts. Together...wow. It was just amazing.

Even more amazing, this concert was one of Chapman's first tours after losing his five year old daughter in a car accident. One of his sons accidentally hit her in their driveway. Her name was Maria, and she was from China. I remember the night I learned about Maria. Having my own little Maria a room away...well, my heart hurt for the Chapman family.

One of my strongest memories from this concert is listening to Chapman sing "He gives and takes away..." Suddenly those words had a totally different meaning. I cried through the whole song. It has never meant the same thing to me since.

Friday night a tragedy struck our community. Three local high school students were leaving a concert in Tulsa. John Mayer. I have to admit, I had to look him up. I have heard him without knowing I have. Anyway, they were attempting to turn around when their vehicle was struck by a truck.

One student died at the scene. I didn't know her, but it has taken no time to find out what kind of person she was. Micayla Patterson lived her life to the fullest. Even more, she lived it for Christ. And while I believe she is in heaven basking in God's glory and would not for a second think of returning to our world, my heart is SO heavy for the family left here to grieve, for the many friends who already miss her smile and her spirit. You can see just a glimpse of her life right here...

The other two students are in the hospital. One of them was a kindergarten student in my class once upon a time. I won't go into much detail but I will say that she is a precious child (young woman these days I suppose). She also has an amazing mature faith (from what I can tell) and will need that faith for the rest of her life to lean on after this. My heart has ached thinking about her. My students are my students for life. They have a place in my heart. When one hurts, I hurt. I don't want to sound noble. It really isn't. It is part of being a teacher. It is obvious after talking to another teacher she had later in school that this is just part of who we are. It also says alot about D. She left an impression. Her Facebook page is filled with countless messages of love and prayers.

The last report I have heard (all second hand) is that her condition is improving. That does not stop my tears from flowing. And they have all weekend.

All this to say, this morning at church, the last song we sang was "Blessed be the name of the Lord..."

Ugh. There are those words written by Matt Redman...
On the road marked with suffering
Though there's pain in the offering
Blessed be your name...

Then a little further in the song,
When the darkness closes in,
Lord, still I will say

Blessed be the name of the Lord.

Singing those words today had a completely different meaning yet again. One family I don't know but cannot get out of my mind is experiencing that "take away" part. It is one of the deepest fears as a parent. I know my kids are "on loan" from God. They aren't really mine. Yet, I live my life expecting that they will be here long after I will. But sometimes, for whatever reason, He gives and takes away. For the others who remain here, friends and family of Micayla and the other students, they are on that road of suffering. Through this all, we are to CHOOSE to say, "Blessed be Your name..."

There are many things in life I don't understand. I am not afraid to say to God, "Why, God? Why did this happen?" I know that sometimes I will see the answer in time. Other times, I have to trust that there are things I just won't understand with my human mind and heart. It doesn't matter. God is who He is. 'Nuff said. (I realize, easier said than believed)

Some days the praise flows easily. When I watch the sunset, spend the day at the beach with my family, listen to the laughter of my children, it is so easy for my lips and tongue to sing, "Blessed be Your name." It is natural to me to praise He who created these moments.

But what about on the road to suffering? What about when two teachers in your school find out within months of each other that they are battling cancer? What about a friend who says goodbye to her husband as he leaves for inservice not realizing that it is their last goodbye? How about when a singer, completely devoted to God, cradles his daughter in his arms as her spirit leaves due to a tragic accident? And what about when three well-loved students, having the time of their lives, leave a concert and moments later are struck by a truck in their vehicle?

How about then?

He gives and takes away.

So here is my question, to both you and me...

What will we choose to say?

Will we choose to sing "Blessed is Your Name?"

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Sunrise, Sunset

First of all, I want to give a big shout out to my friend Chely who told me how I can add pictures without having to pay for added storage! It was an easy click of a button. Woohoo!

On to today's post...

I have always enjoyed sunsets, particularly over the ocean. :) But over the years, I have stopped truly noticing them...unless we are at the beach. I guess that is because it is the crazy time of night (dinner, bedtime, etc), and typically I am inside the house at that time. The past few weeks, my eyes have been re-opened. Each night, I stepped outside to check on our baby sparrows. As I did, I started noticing just how beautiful the sunsets were. Since I had my camera for bird photos, I started snapping some pictures of the sunset too each night.




It is now a nightly ritual. Most nights, I grab my camera just as the sun sets. I try with all my might to capture the beauty of His creation, His handiwork. Yet like many breathtaking sights, the camera (to me) never truly captures how glorious each sunset is. But still I snap away.

I am thankful for this time. Life is so busy. I feel like I am a hamster in a wheel sometimes, running around in circles. It has been such a time of rejuvenation to just take a few minutes each day to stop and truly appreciate the world I live in, the beauty around me. It also puts my life in perspective...very small compared to the universe He created. Honestly, this "reawakening" has been a gift to me, a gift I didn't know I needed.

I imagine that sunrises are equally as amazing. However, that requires me getting up before I am ready to. :)

Reba