Thursday, August 25, 2011

Choosing Well

About 4:30 am I heard my sweet girl from the other room, the kind of half-cry which alerts that the paci had gone and jumped ship. I stumbled into the room and silently told the night light off for not being enough for me to see. As soon as I flipped a switch and found her bedtime buddy, my middle girl-- the one who never cared much for a pacifier-- popped up. My heart sank a little.

"I'm hungry, Mama!" Then she started to giggle, which made the baby giggle and I thought-- well, why not? This is why I'm here, this is why we do what we do. This was one of the many chances I have every day to be a {albeit tired} stick in the mud or to be the kind of Mom I always hoped I'd be. Day by day I need to remember to ask for the grace to choose well.

We tiptoed down the steps and into the kitchen. I found some granola bars and we huddled up on the couch under the soft blanket I had given my Mamaw on her last Christmas Earth-side. We giggled some more, at Alysse's favorite baby doll that Maddie made dance, at the fact that we were getting crumbs all over the couch at the crack of dawn. We got up and sliced some strawberries, bananas... defrosted blueberry muffins and made a fantastic mess in the process.

Just like that we ate and I slipped Alysse back into her crib and she happily drifted right off. Maddie curled up between Joe and I and was soon fast asleep herself.


Come morning I had a mountain of laundry that had taken two days to wash, dry/hang, and put away and I was determined to finish it. I also had a number of other projects that had piled up and they, too, demanded my attention I believed. The girls were all getting restless and wanted that attention, but I was busy. I filled up their water table with rice for fun, but they wanted me. Suddenly the house began to shake.

It took a few seconds to register what was going on-- an earthquake! Nothing too dramatic I am grateful to say, but still... an earthquake. We were all okay, but as the thoughts turned over in my mind, I was reminded... it only takes seconds for everything to change. Everything.

I dropped my agenda and grabbed the girls. Surveyed our "Summer Bucket List" and decided to finally make those shell creatures and starfish, which later morphed into mermaids and more. We gave the hot glue gun a work out. But it felt so good to create, to be together, to laugh over a project whipped up out of random bits of nothing and everything.

Extra thankful for these chances realized this day to choose well.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Mountain Top

Last September we found ourselves in a valley. Initially things felt like they were crowding in around us as we questioned why in the world our lives had suddenly taken such a sharp detour. But we held on, even when the rope sometimes slipped, and we believed. We believed that when you're in a valley there's pretty much only one way to go, as long as you're looking up. It was not always pretty nor perfect, but it was filled with determination and hope.

Friday night we found ourselves on a mountaintop, looking out at a sea of lights. Looking out at the city, the possible lives we're called to now impact and that in turn will impact us. It was a beautiful view, a good view. A view so much more appreciated because of the bumps in the road that it took to get there.

"Hardship often prepares an ordinary person for an extraordinary destiny." ~C.S. Lewis

Here's to both the ordinary and extraordinary, and so mingling the two that it becomes hard to tell them apart. Here's to putting one foot in front of the other in faith. And here's to a God who is with you and for you both in the valley and at the peak.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Best Day

Disrespect or ungratefulness, the kind of whining that just won't stop, any time I see my girls do something hurtful to each other. Oh these are the times I either shine with my great patience and wisdom... or I don't. That last one can really get to me, and is something we just cannot have in a family that's built on trust and loyalty.

But for any right or wrong way I may handle parts of a given situation, there is always love. I saw a title today that reminded me how I can't hear this song without hoping my girls hear it too as they look back on the soundtrack of their childhood. In fact, if it starts to play and one of them is nearby I literally cannot stop myself from scooping her up and dancing cheek to cheek. And there are always tears in my eyes when I do, especially when I realize how long those legs now dangle compared to just a short blink ago.

My own Mom often says that even a hard day with her family is the best day. In this heart of mine, I have to agree. Discipline has to happen sometimes, but minutes later so does the love. Get down to their level, look them in the eyes, really mean it... I love you. For any of my imperfections, for any of those come-what-may days, for any of the truly great and ordinary moments that we share-- I want my girls to know that during this unique, fleeting season of having them so little and so near:

I had the best day with you today.

the best day

with you and you and you


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Around Town

But first, I have to smile. I can never upload photos without coming across a dozen or more just like this:
My Hope, the photographer.
The need for a map or GPS is dwindling, and we're finding some favorite spots around town. This does wonders for my confidence and for our stride.

THE book store, as in the one the girls could spend every piggy bank dime in if I give them the chance. Down the stairs and to the right. You'll likely find two little girls there counting out their change and asking, "Ooh, can I get this one Mama? Do I have enough? Huh, huh? Do I??"

The third little girl, if not wrapped up in a sling, will likely be making a break for the stairs or the windy path back to the musty romance novels... again.

A community market nestled on Main Street, right near a cafe that the girls have critiqued as "Really, really gooooo-d! Can we come back here, puh-leeze??" It was a bulky 105 degree walk, with our arms full and a semi-busy street nearby. Nonetheless we used my birthday money to treat ourselves one lunch time, and I think we might have to make this pretty affordable splurge again.
Loving Hope's new little bob. So her.

The wig shop was also an intriguing spot to window shop on our adventure

The girls got to pick our produce and brought home tiny potatoes, one especially itsy one that Maddie just had to have for Alysse, and apples. Suddenly honey mashed potatoes and apple crisp were on the dinner menu, along with some other eclectic stuff we threw together.
Maddie's hair! Now that she's waited so long for it to "grow up," she is convinced it's getting as long as "Rapunza's." Rapunzel. How she makes me laugh.

Campus life. For instance, there is this great free kids' indoor playground right next to the law school. It also happens to be a part of the big campus church, which we visited as the first one of our hunt. Now the girls practically think we should choose it above every other church we visit. I'm certain it's for purely spiritual reasons.

But even when we're not climbing up, down, and around giant treehouses there are other fun activities that we're slowly starting to discover. Like family days up on the university's mountain, not too far from home, where you can "snow"tube in August.
And in the next moment gather your courage to plummet down a steep water slide in your blue jeans.

Maddie really did love it. Promise.

 Still, many days my favorite spots of all come from the place our GPS lady now announces as "Arriving Home."

What I can see while washing dishes
A closet I converted into a place to curl up and thumb through pages, "The Reading Nook"-- the girls now won't let you call it anything different

Front porch swing
That's what I hope for so many I love, for confidence and for stride... down all the paths they're called to travel.
A little from around our town to yours,

Monday, August 8, 2011

In the Kitchen

Almost every time I merely think about entering the kitchen, four little legs come scrambling after me.

"I wanna help, Mommy!"
"What can I do???"
"Here's my stool!!"

I'm usually in one of two places. Either I am all about it and happily set about giving each of them a job to complete. Or I am wanting to just get the job done already without all the extra mess, time, mess, and time. If I find myself in the land of the latter, as with most other things in mothering and life, it is best if I do one simple thing.

Get over myself.

Especially when I stumble upon my oldest girl sitting in the floor with a piece of paper, some crayons, and her fun creativity.

Fruity Yogurt Drink Smoothie
By Hope Martins
1. Milk
2. Yogurt
3. Ice
4. Strawberry lemonade
5. Mango
6. Blueberries


Each Friday night one family member gets to pick both the menu and activities. I can almost predict what each gal will choose and for Hopey, you might as well break out the eggs and waffle iron.
Breakfast for dinner it is. The more toppings, the better.

Maddie is quite the corn shucker when it comes her turn.

Alysse isn't really yet cooking and baking, but she sure has the job of "Taste Tester" down

We're on a mission to find the perfect easy bread for our family without having to order the crazy-hard-to-find-part missing from the bread machine we were gifted. I may just give in, but in the meantime this one comes mighty close. (Paired with some jam and this in the morning for mama... hello, new day!)

Pre-baking, lopsided pedicures do wonders for the final result

So much fun to hear them throw around words like recipe, ingredients, and half a cup. I just never could have dreamed up how delicious my little girls would someday be.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Unwrapping Katrina Day

On our way to the orchard, my chosen way to spend the day of my birth, we had the following conversation over the fabulous blaring CD's one of my sweetest friends made me.

Me: Hey Madds, please don't spill the trail mix all over the car.
M: Why, Mommy?
Me: Well, Daddy surprised me by cleaning the car and I really appreciate that.
M: That was so nice of Daddy, wasn't it?
Me: It sure was. I love Daddy!
M: Me too. I lovvvve my Daddy!
H: Oh yeah, we should definitely keep him!

Thinking that he would have to spend my actual birthday day working through faculty orientation, he made the weekend full of thoughtful touches. Cleaned the car, woke me up with the most perfect omelet, put contacts in my phone, took the girls out on Saturday to shop for little gifts while I got to get some things done, took us out for lunch after church, made delicious grilled chicken salad, called my mom to figure out how to whip up a strawberry ice-cream pie.

Sometimes we get so busy, I forget to tell him.
Honey, I am so glad I get to keep you. You are the love of my life!
Yep, we've gone to the mini-van side. And surprisingly I am, free and clear especially, loving how much easier it makes my life! When Joe brought it home, you would have thought it was a Lexus. I'll never forget Hope sneaking up past bedtime only to turn up the radio and go on a joy ride with me while shouting out to our sleeping Tennessee neighbors, "The doors! The doors! They open SIDEways!!!"

Any one of those things would have been enough, but as it was I decided to pack us up and head out on a road trip to an orchard I had heard about. It was hot, but the frozen peach slushes made on the farm were enough to help us get up what we named "Peach Mountain."
Sweet matchy, matchies courtesy of aunties with style

Some little pound picking champions

It wasn't without its share of sweating and very itchy peach juice, but I sure liked planning my day too. Made sweeter by the words and packages I came home to receive. And by Ina Garten's peach cake (minus the pecans). Blessed nectar of the gods.

As the girls went to bed without a hitch (a BIG deal as poor Alysse's FOUR teeth wreak havoc!) and Joe and I got to watch "Soul Surfer," my heart felt so blessed. It truly was a special birthday.

My keepers, my birthday night view at the dinner table

Days like this are the kind that encourage my heart when I cannot see the peaches, cake, and soul satisfying encouragement for all the distractions.

Life is such a gift, and I am so thankful to be alive yet another year to unwrap it.