the business of partnering and serving

A friend asked me some questions about my marriage. Partnering and serving came to mind. Prayerfully striving to be a partner and servant to each other are our goals. And doing so in tangible ways. Ways that often times are not glamorous. Ways that look like this morning.

He told me to take the day off. Come home to nurse Asa but then just go.

So I stood in the bedroom getting ready to just go. The kids were at the table. A certain daughter became unhinged when she was told there were no more frozen blueberries for her oatmeal.

“But!…But!…(sob)…My oatmeal won’t turn purple now!! (sob sob)”

He breaks out the freakishly colored food colorings. Boom. Girl had her purple oatmeal, one boy had blue oatmeal that tinted his teeth, and the other chose green which turned his gloopy oatmeal an awful color that reminded me of things we don’t need to talk about.

He says he’ll take the kids to Costco. They’ll love him for it, even on a Monday morning when the samples are sure to be scarce. They’ll talk him into pizza. And he’ll love caving to them.

One boy coughs and hacks and we use up the last of the expired medicines. So he says he’ll take him to the doctor for a quick checkup. With the others.

“Now he’s just showing off,” I think to myself.

But I laugh knowing this is not true.

This is the man who took all four kids to Costco when Asa was just a two week old. I woke up from a nap and everyone had gone off sampling.

I’ve never taken all four to the doctor’s office by myself. I think I’ll continue to try and keep up my streak. He’s more adventurous than me.

I know that what serving and partnering look like will change through the course of our years. But for now, food coloring the oatmeal, doctor visits and the like are where serving and partnering take us. And I love him for it.

evening comes

The morning was full of school. Sometimes they surprise me with the parts of school they love. Today I read them The Mouse of Amherst as part of Morning Time. A book about Emily Dickinson told from the perspective of a little mouse poet? I thought the boys might last a page or two, but they loved it. And then reciting our grammar definitions? Couldn’t get enough of it. Weirdos.

The afternoon was full of non-napping babies, a not so quiet quiet time for the older kids, and me trying to figure out how to read for my Intro to Immigration Law class (which I’m taking to help start up an immigration ministry at our church) in the midst of not napping and no quiet.  It’s been awhile since I’ve taken a class, but I’m loving it thus far, even with all the acronyms.

The early evening was full of driving to try to lull an Asa to sleep (negative). So I did what all wise moms with fathers out of town do: go to Costco for samples. And it was a jackpot. Not only did we eat chicken quesadillas, hummus and pita chips, and more, but there was also a little something for Asa. 3 samples of banana/applesauce = dinner for Asa. First time Costco sample win. His sixth month is starting out on a high note.

The late evening will start with me trying to work my way through a book stack that is too tall at the moment. But as my eyelids start to weigh down at the embarrassingly early hour of 8, I’ll switch to my current television addiction, A Chef’s Life, that takes place not too far from where my parents used to live in eastern North Carolina. It makes me hungry and even a bit homesick (which is funny because I never really lived there long term) for that part of the country.

today in September

Today was a day off for Omar.

Today there were older two kids at a class, a girl at the grandparents, and a baby with us.

Today there was coffee.

And coffeecake.

Today there were drawing lessons and piano lessons with the grandparents in the afternoon. 

And a napping baby in their room.

This all equals a Curbside Gourmet lunch date for Omar and me.

I’ll have the buttermilk fried chicken sandwich with a side of crab cake sliders, thank you.

And together we talked books and kids and our town. 

This was all followed by an afternoon at my parents.

Kids scootering, baby drooling, turkey roasting.

I figured I should clear last year’s never-cooked turkey out of the freezer to make way for the next one. 

Then a crazy rainbow followed us home, and we saw half of our town out enjoying it.

Kids crashed.

Mama crashed.

And now there is chai, Bach, and my bed, which is surely the trifecta of something.

and you do it again! and again! and again!

The other day the kids watched the original Cheaper By the Dozen (they loved it). This led to a discussion at dinner about what would happen if we had 12 kids. Typically in the oft-occuring discussions led by my tribe about how we need many more kids, I can’t stop laughing to participate in the conversation. But that day I held myself together to add to the discussion.

Prompted by the movie, Lenna was very concerned about who would take care of all 12 kids if Omar were to die:

Me: I will!
Lenna: Are you sure you know how to take care of children?
Me: Pretty sure.
Lenna: I know how to.
Me: How does it work?
Lenna: You wake them up in the morning, dress them, feed them ice cream, play, go to bed, and then wake up and do it all over again. And then again! And again!
Me: Amen, sister.

It’s the “again-ness” that can get to me. I can easily get overwhelmed by the sameness and repetition. But to my girl? It is beautiful. To wake up again! And do the same things again! To just be with each other again! And truly she is right. It is.

hey, Tuesday!

You were waking with the sun.

You were coffee delivered in bed while the littlest stirred awake.

You were hours spent on the couch reading The Penderwicks to little people who offered to rub feet and brush hair in appreciation.

You were siblings arguing and fussing and forgiving. Repeat.

You were a friend stopping by to have a much needed 1/2 hour of adult conversation. Even if that 1/2 hour included holding my baby who gifted her with drool upon drool.

You were an extraordinarily napping Asa.

You were swim lessons and splashing under a cloudy sky.

You were cookies.

You were a girl who watched her brother suddenly stop screaming when put in the sling and said in all seriousness, “Well, that was magical.”

You were a completely below average dinner.

You were a boy feeling queasy who just needed to fall asleep on the couch. I think I believe him, but who plays around when it comes to queasiness?

You were that perfect mix of good and hard.

when your grandma visits and you organize your photos

My computer died about a year ago. And then my old camera started acting up. And then I got pregnant and couldn’t have cared less about computers and cameras. And then I got a new camera. And had a baby. And became completely overwhelmed as to how I should go about finding and organizing all my old photos. And so I did nothing. And then my grandma visited.

And while she was visiting she asked to borrow all of my blog books (I’ve had the first few years of my blog published in book format). When she did this it made me curious, and I went back and read through them, too. Simple and funny stories of kids. Food we’ve made. Places we’ve traveled. Just life. This all made me realize that I currently don’t have the same record of life that I did from a few years ago. This blog just hasn’t found a place in my days as much as it used to. But I want a record of days, no matter how normal and repetitive they can be. So I worked up the courage, tackled hard drives, and found a safe and accessible spot for all (well, most all…) of my photos.

And now here we are.

Back to stories of things my kids say.

Back to things I’m learning.

Back to things I’m reading.

Back to learning more about my new camera that still fascinates yet also unnerves me.

Back to pictures of things I’ve made. Like vanilla cream and fresh fruit tarts that don’t quite come together the way that they should, but that make excellent deconstructed tart bowls.

Back to pictures upon pictures of Asa yawning and sleeping and smiling and fussing because like all seem to say these days, babies don’t keep.

i love a good thursday

when there is rain in the forecast

when the house is dark and cool and shadows are long

when roasts are roasting

when we finish up school before lunch

when Asher declares this the Best Day Ever! because school finished up before lunch

when I think I’ve figured out some of the changes that are needed for next year’s homeschooling

when Asa shows the slightest hint of a smile

when Lenna’s older brothers praise her Lego creation

when kid bickering is minimal

when Omar and I go on a date for his birthday…kidless

when kids pick out pretty hilarious gifts for their father (I nixed the idea of giving him a dollar bill on top of a box)

when Elisha whistles on pitch to every song that plays on the stereo

when books are read: The 21 Balloons and Jan Brett books for kids, Stephen King (the non-horror variety) for me

when I see the boy below reading all the time

anytime

anywhere

these are the days

of waiting for Asa
of being absolutely convinced I will be pregnant forever
of everybody, except that girl you see above, dropping like flies from one sickness or another
of introducing that concept of movie marathons (Harry Potter 1-3) to kids because of the above
of me reading to kids (everything from The Apprentice to Little House on the Prairie to Dragons Love Tacos)
of kids reading to me (I am loving this)
of me reading to me (Desiring the Kingdom by James K.A. Smith, 11/22/63 by Stephen King, Parenting With Love and Logic by Cline and Fay, Walking With God Through Pain and Suffering by Tim Keller)
of not finishing any books because I started too many at once
of washing and folding little boy clothes
of working my way through recipes in Whole-Grain Mornings: New Breakfast Recipes to Span the Seasons (make this oatmeal! and then make these muffins!)
of fitting in dates with Omar before Asa comes
of Swedish pancakes with butter and lingonberry jam breakfast dates
of Chinese food lunch dates
of corn and crab beignet dinner dates
of kind and generous family and friends helping with kids and meals and my sanity

january weekending

kids arranging fallen coconuts in the yard
squishy lawn from over 12 in of rain
neighbor’s mango tree blooming
shoe making (more like planning) for Asa
Grain Brain reading and gluten-free diet planning for me (I’m desperate to stop the migraines and headaches)
Natalie Merchant concert for Omar and me
An American In Paris viewing for the kids
The Sound of Music soundtrack on repeat for all
discovering there is a Lego! rental! program! genius.
freezer filling up with meals
not wanting to use any of the meals because then I won’t have a freezer full of meals
school sneaking into Saturday
boys not minding because they are taken with all things Marco Polo and Mongol Empire
Lenna: pop bead necklaces, Raccoon Rumpus, baby doll rocking. repeat.

it’s november

I love you, November. I know this still means highs in the 80s, but I take comfort in the fact that I’ve lived down here for so long now that the 70s make me want a light sweater. My boys know no other climate so when the temps hit 75 they’ve been breaking out their new hoodies in order to experience “the cozy.”

The past weeks have marked our return to the world of the parks. Hours of them playing and climbing outside. Hours of me not passing out from the heat. School is crammed into the early hours of the morning, so we can hit up the parks later in the day. I’m also trying to relish these last few months of running out with the kids and not needing to buckle, feed, or change any little people. I know I’m about to jump back into the world of carrying diapers, snacks, and strollers around and am excited about it. But running around parks chasing toddlers? I don’t miss that part.

I love that the past days’ weather has been cloudy and dark and quite windy. It feels (looks is perhaps a more fitting word) like November. Harry Potter movies find their way into the movie rotation this time of year. And this year? The kids get to join us for the first two movies. We always said we’d make them read them before they could watch them, but we were just too excited to let them have a peek at its world that we caved. But only for the first two…for now. And if you watch Harry while it’s dark and stormy outside, you also need hot chocolate or egg nog to go along with it. Cookies don’t hurt, either. So there’s been lots of that around here, too.

And November marks the four month countdown until Asa arrives. That means four months to remedy the situation of me only having 2 onesies, three sleepers, and some worn out blue and green diapers. But if he is willing to boldly rock some girly clothes and hot pink diapers, then I’m almost set.

4 years ago today

Four years ago today Omar started his job here.

I didn’t take any pictures of the 15th of July 2009, but I don’t think they’d be very interesting. They would be pics of boxes, boxes, and more boxes because we were only here a couple of days before Omar started.

But when I think back on the past four very full, very good, very hard years, it’s this one you see here that pops into my head. She wasn’t around when we moved here and started a new job, so I think she qualifies as the biggest change in our lives since we moved here.

But she is very here now. In all her curly haired, sweet natured, bossy glory.

The boys were so much smaller, too, with squeakier voices and chubbier hands.

In some ways it feels like ages ago.

Four years from now Elisha will be 11. And that just blows my mind.

job perks

Omar and I have a running list of “Things They Did Not Teach Us In Seminary” (not that we really expected them to, but it would’ve been nice – ha).  A lot of the list is serious. Things relating to counseling, finances, HR-like stuff, etc.

They also did not teach us about the more light-hearted side of things. The little perks.

Like deviled eggs. Lots and lots of deviled eggs. Omar and I joke that at all these new and hip restaurants that tout farm-to-table menus, you can easily spot the people who don’t go to church. They order the $4 a pop deviled eggs. Who pays that?! People who don’t attend church potlucks and get their deviled egg fix, that’s who.

Or funeral flowers. No joke. Soon after Omar started his first job out of seminary, I heard him plodding up the back steps to our apartment. I opened the door and saw two feet peeking out from under a tower of funeral flower arrangements. I was horrified. “What?! Why?! Noooo!!” Something just felt oddly wrong about it, especially when the flowers were still in those wreath-like arrangements on a stand. But now I’m over it, and once you pick them apart and gather them into separate little arrangements, all traces of the funeral are gone. And it’s free.

s :: s :: s

Summer is here. In all of its pool-filled, popsicle-dripping glory. Nights and mornings are still occasionally breezy and cool. The mosquitoes are lurking and the poincianas are blooming. I saw trucks selling lychees in Miami this week but have yet to see them pop up in our county.

School is winding its way down, but I don’t think I’ll bring it to a halt. We need the routine and activity. We’ve also hit a bit of a random mid-May school stride. The kids are eager and interested and soaking it all in. They’re particularly intrigued with the civics questions I’ve been asking them during Morning Time. They get about half of the questions I ask them (e.g. Who was the first president of the U.S.? What is the Constitution?) right and the other half hilariously wrong. They are fascinated with the presidential line of succession, but they’re still working out in their little heads how the whole president and vice president thing works. So when I start in on trying to explain the cabinet, their eyes glaze. For awhile Elisha kept saying that they should just keep having races because he thought the races actually involved the candidates riding elephants and donkeys and what’s the big deal with that? If only…

Sweets are being made, but they’re moving away from the baked variety and on to the frozen variety. Juices for popsicles are being experimented with. The ice cream maker has been dusted off for its annual appearance. Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams At Home has become our go-to ice cream book. The flavors and textures with her technique are great. Her recipes are some of the few homemade ice cream recipes where I finish a bite and don’t feel like I’ve just licked a stick of butter. First up this year were the pumpkin and five spice powder ice cream and the roasted rhubarb frozen yogurt. Both delicious and even loved by the little people.

I delight

In a girl who finally lost the battle against the “But I’m not tired!”

In a house of playing and scheming and running cousins

In walks by the lake and kids in trees

In realizing I have two issues of Mars Hill Audio that I haven’t listened to

In beautiful books

In books that minister to a soul that has been confused and in need of encouragement

In beautiful weather and late-March cold snaps

In kids reciting poetry

In boys discovering the world of Settlers

In rest

here

February and March have always seemed like the quiet months in my years. My birthday pops up in the middle of March but other than that, life is usually quite steady. This year, though? There were two trips to North Carolina in nine days – one planned, one not. One trip was bittersweet. Sadness and sweet friends and fellowship were all mixed together. The second trip was restful and full of encouraging conversation and good food and my friend’s sweet family.

And life here continued. Kids called me to tell me of lost and found stuffed animals, detailed (always detailed) events of their days, and all the great places Grandma and Grandma and Papi took them.

Now I’m back with no trips on the horizon for a few months. School has found its winter groove. Plans for first day of spring celebrations with the cousins are in the works. The caterpillars that decimated our butterfly plant have rewarded us with daily, sometimes hourly, transformations into butterflies. Everything marches on.