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True friends September 26, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kristi @ 9:19 pm
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True friends never owe each other anything. (from Bear Circus by William Pene du Bois)

Let me start this by saying that my husband and I have never really moved in the traditional sense of the term. When we got married, I was living with my parents and he was living in a dorm. Several months before our wedding, we decided we would rent a house from his parents once we were married. That house was vacant at the time and they gave us unlimited access to it, so every time we had a wedding shower we would just take the gifts over to the house and put them away in their places. At some point we took a couch in, at another point other furniture, stretching out the process of moving our pieced together hand-me-down furniture over about five months. It was so easy. A day or two before the wedding we moved the bulk of our clothes over to the rent house and the last of the things we hadn’t yet moved. We got married, we started living there, and we lived there for nine years.

Until a couple of weeks ago when we moved into the home we have been saving up for. It was a completely different experience. First of all, before moving in we set aside two weeks to peel wall paper, paint, change light switches and outlets, and do other general repairs to our new home. Jon has a full time job now, we’re nine years older (read nine years less energetic) than when we married, and we have two small children. This made working on the house every day for two weeks a bit trickier than that time I unloaded brand new plates from wedding gift boxes and took a minute to hang up curtains in the rent house with no children to chase. This time we were arranging for Jon’s mom to watch the kids, making daily trips to Lowe’s, working as fast as we could in the two hours we had between Jon leaving work and the kids’ bed time, and basically living off of fast food. It was fun and exhausting and would have been absolutely impossible without the incredible help of a few great friends.

What can you say about the kind of friend who also works for a feverish two or five hours painting your living room paneling? What do you say about the moms who take your children every single day and don’t roll their eyes once when you come an hour past their bed time (again!) to pick them up, paint splattered and exhausted? Or the friends who bring a meal and plastic ware and paper plates to a house with no table in it so you can enjoy a picnic of NON-fast food in your future dining room? And there’s the one who kept us all filled up with the perfection that is ice cold Sonic beverages. The friend who came early in the morning on his actual birthday to help load our moving truck blew me away, as did my husband’s boss who came and both loaded and unloaded on a hot Saturday. A friend from MOPS cleaned my kitchen counters and drawers so I could unload my dishes and she helped unpack my closet and has now seen my lingerie. This is how she spent a rare afternoon of freedom from her own two small children. I was just humbled and amazed by their help. I was exhausted from this work and I know they had to be exhausted too, and they didn’t have to do it!

Towards the end of the day, my friend (who had arranged childcare for her three children for the whole day so she and her husband could be there packing, loading, unloading, and unpacking) had to call it quits because her nursing baby needed her (do you know how exhausting that stage of motherhood is? Do you?). I looked at her and thought about how tired she must be and what a sacrifice it was for her to do this with a Saturday and I just couldn’t even think of what to say. I said something about being beyond all gratitude and owing them big time. And she said, “We will always be even.” And another friend said something similar after he worked probably more on our house than I did over that two week span (during which time he also started a new job!). He painted and peeled wall paper and ate fast food and wrapped quilts around my antique chairs so they wouldn’t scratch in the back of his truck and we could never in a hundred years say thank you enough but he is okay with that. And we can rest in the knowledge that we haven’t just racked up a whole lot of friendship debt because there is no such thing. We would do the same for them and I hope we get to, but it is not repaying a debt. It is just friendship. And there is this great form of love where a man lays down his Saturday for his friends and I am not going to say anything else here because I am literally weeping with gratitude and fullness of heart and friendship and I just can’t.

 

That’s a lot September 18, 2013

“…we got each other,” she said, “and that’s a lot.” (from Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt)

I’ve been reading Crossing To Safety by Wallace Stegner and it has me thinking about friendship and family and the wealth therein. My family is reasonably comfortable now but we have been through times when we lived on a pittance. I will not romanticize living on little. It was stressful. But I can not tell you that we have ever been poor. We have always had the wealth of one another. It’s not just enough. It’s a lot. An excess of laughter and comfort and presence. I have always said that our one great talent is friendship and we have surrounded ourselves with just the loveliest people. It’s weird because we are introverts by nature yet we have these wide circles of friends and deep pools of them. We are also close to our families. We live where they live and we don’t plan to move away. This is what is most important to us, these people.

And the astonishing grace of the whole thing is that enough would have been enough. Just Jon and I loving each other or just our families or just a couple of close friends–any of these scenarios alone would have made us feel secure in affection and comfort. As Ma Ingalls said in one of the Little House books, “Enough is as good as a feast.” Enough would have been enough. But instead we have more than enough. We have a lot.

 

Just have some pudding September 12, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kristi @ 9:19 pm
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No, I think I’ll just go down and have some pudding and wait for it all to turn up…It always does in the end.”  (from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling)

I’ve been trying the Luna Lovegood approach to life over the harried, frenzied approach lately and it seems to be working out well. Luna’s attitude assumes that peacefully and happily waiting for things to work out, enjoying and relying on friendships, and calmly doing what needs to be done without overly stressing, is preferable to the worried and frantic doing or searching or trying that seems to sap the rest of us of our joy.

Things usually turn out all right. If they don’t, worrying over them wouldn’t have made a difference in the outcome. I love in the most recent film adaptation of Charlotte’s Web when Wilbur says, “Should I be worried?” Charlotte answers, “Of course not. What good would that do?”

Recently a friend and I had plans during lunch. She was supposed to bring some brisket but left it behind in her attempt to remember all of the things and all of the children that women in our stage of life must juggle and shove into the all the right places of our cars every time we go anywhere. We unloaded all of the things and all of the children at my house and then we realized the brisket was not in the car. There was a moment of sagging shoulders and sighing between us. Then we just laughed and I said, “Let’s just see what we have in the fridge!” In a calm 35 minutes we had baked chicken breasts, rice, and broccoli on the table. We slowed down enough to allow our better thoughts to work through the situation and come up with a solution. Another day with the same friend, I was in charge of picking up lunch at a local restaurant but I was having a rough day. I was hot and tired and had too many things on my mind. I received three different phone calls on the way to the restaurant. I turned the wrong way leaving and took several blocks to realize it. I missed my exit going back to my friend’s house. I felt bad for making my friends wait for lunch while I drove all over tarnation, for leaving them with my kids who were probably getting cranky from waiting for lunch and I couldn’t believe how much gas I was wasting. In my sweaty, messy, frantic state of mind I started driving too fast. I got pulled over by a very kind police officer. He reminded me of the speed limit and checked my license before letting me go with a warning. I took a deep breath. I reminded myself that if I could just calm down for a second, I would end up at my friend’s house with the fajitas still plenty  hot and the guacamole still plenty cool and I would be much more pleasant with a smile on my face.

As I reflect on those two lunches, I am resolved to take the calm approach on purpose. It was just so much more pleasant. And, like Luna, I can trust my friends with my weird and wandering mind. They may think I’m loony, but I know they will still love me.

 

What’s the point? November 9, 2012

Filed under: Chapter Books — Kristi @ 1:05 am
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I don’t think she has very much fun, and what’s the point in being that clean if it means you never get to have any fun? (from Ellray Jakes is NOT a chicken! by Sally Warner)

I have always said the best way to get my house clean is to invite people over. If I know someone is coming, historically, I clean in a frenzy and make it perfect because I want people to believe I am some sort of superior housekeeper and that it always looks like this. And, for a long time, I went around feeling somewhat inadequate in the housekeeping department because every house I went to was spotless and I believed these houses remained in a permanent state of cleanliness that I had been woefully unable to achieve in my own. Not so, reader. Not so.

About a year ago, a friend invited my son and me to her house for a play date and when we got there I was struck by how messy her house was. I don’t mean that to sound rude. When I say it was messy, I mean that there were scattered toys, junk mail was on the table in a careless heap, dishes were in and around the sink, and I could tell the counter top had not been freshly wiped. When I say it was messy, I mean that it was exactly like my  house most of the time. It was normal. It was just their home the way they actually live in it. I couldn’t fathom the kind of confidence she must have had, to be able to invite people over in such a relaxed way, with no fresh smell of Lemon Clorox greeting friends at the door. When I got home I just felt so blessedly normal.

So I don’t clean my house for play dates anymore either. And, as a result, I have people over a lot more. Which means I have more fun. I no longer see the state of my home as a barrier to hospitality. You know what? We have a messy desk. There is pureed pumpkin stuck to the kitchen floor. There are whisker hairs on the bathroom sink and I can see a sock peeking out from under a toy peeking out from under the couch. It is what it is and what it is, is normal. I bet you have a junk mail pile too. So why stuff it in a drawer or cabinet before I come over? So I will think you are the type of magical person who has no paper pile? I am not relaxed around those magical people. I am relaxed around people who make me feel normal.

I worked a charity tour of homes once when I was in high school and the house I was helping give tours in was one of those that you can very briefly describe and everyone in town knows which house it is. (Oh, the big stone house on Bennett that always has a limo out front? I know that house!) It literally had an elevator in it. And one of the bedrooms had leopard print carpet. One of the bathrooms had a mural of the home owner painted on the tile. One of the bedrooms had a ceiling raised several feet to accommodate a piece of furniture. Anyway. It was that kind of house. Just before the tour, the home owner (as gorgeous and strange as her house) showed me around and gave me the spiel. When we entered one of the bathrooms, she said, “Ooops! I forgot to move these!” and hid the toothbrushes in a cabinet. I thought that was so funny–to hide your toothbrushes–to make it look like a house in a magazine spread that no one really lives in. And the truth is, I have tried and tried to imagine someone relaxing there and I can’t. It’s just too perfect.

Do I want to create an environment that people want to tour and photograph or one where people want to live and breathe and have a good time? Well, I might put the gnarly, twisted toothpaste tube in the bathroom cabinet, but our toothbrushes are out for the world to see.

 

 

Broken July 12, 2012

Filed under: Chapter Books — Kristi @ 9:48 am
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All living things have a heart. And the heart of any living thing can be broken. (from The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo)

Two months ago I had a baby girl and on the same day a friend of mine had a baby boy. June and Ezra–we called them birthday buddies. It was so much fun to compare notes on everything, to be next door hospital room neighbors, to see so many similarities between our sweet babies. On Tuesday afternoon, Ezra passed away suddenly. I can’t really write about it but I can’t really think about anything else. It’s like lightening striking the house next door–so close to home I can feel the heat and the shock  and smell the burning wood. Yesterday I went to see my friend, Ezra’s mommy, and I saw a home full of broken hearts. If you pray, reader, will you pray for them?

 

Made time June 14, 2012

Filed under: Picture Books — Kristi @ 12:20 pm
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Amos had a lot to do at the zoo, but he always made time to visit his good friends.  (from A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Philip C. Stead)

First of all, this Caldecott Medal winning book is gorgeous. The illustrations by Erin E. Stead are beautiful and the story is sweet, calming, and fun. It feels like a vintage children’s book in the best way but was published in 2011. Absolutely charming.

My friend, Christy, gave this book to our children last week and Benjamin has wanted to read it at least once a day since then, which is fine with me. I am the coordinator of a local chapter of Mother’s Of Preschoolers (MOPS) and every year we are given a theme book to base our MOPS year on. This year’s theme book is called Mom Connection by Tracey Bianchi and I really enjoyed reading it while I was in the hospital recovering from the birth of my daughter last month. One of the challenges in the book that caught my attention was to be intentional about creating the environment you want for your family. She asks the question, “What do you want your family to be famous for?” I thought about it a lot and Jon and I talked about what we would want to be “our thing,” the thing people would know us for. I have a friend whose family I always think of as creative and crafty because every time I talk to her or look at her facebook profile they are making something fun together. Another friend’s family I think of as athletic and outdoorsy, always getting out into nature together and staying fit.

My friend’s timing in giving A Sick Day for Amos McGee to my children is astonishing to me because I had been thinking so much about what we wanted to be known for and decided that we wanted to be the family that always makes time for our friends. We don’t want to be always waiting for a more convenient season to go away for the weekend with good friends or waiting until we know we can get the house clean before we invite someone new over. We don’t want to ignore a phone call from an out of town friend because we’re in the middle of some mess or another. We want to be the ones that say, “Hey, the house is a wreck, but come on over. If you can step over the toys and make your way to the kitchen I’ll make us some tea.” We were in Ft. Worth in the fall for a friend’s wedding and the temptation was to hurry home afterward, pick up our son, unpack our bags and get ready for the week ahead. Instead, we called other friends that live in Ft. Worth and stayed long enough to enjoy a long lunch with them before we made the drive home. It was so much better that way. I haven’t taken our daughter to church yet (too many germs for a newborn there!) so I put her in the Moby wrap last week and went to a movie while my husband and son were at church. Other than my infant daughter, I was the youngest person in the theater and I enjoyed watching elderly ladies and gentlemen come in with their friends and laugh and comment together at the parts they enjoyed. I want to maintain my friendships in such a way that we can enjoy catching a movie together when we’re in our eighties and talk about the ones we saw together in our twenties and thirties. After church, my husband thought he might go home and work in the yard a bit. Instead, he stayed around my parents’ house to watch Duck Dynasty with my dad. Then our good friend came over and we spent the rest of the afternoon chatting and catching up. Before we knew it, we were late for dinner with some other good friends. We were supposed to bring vegetables and had nothing prepared. Instead of wasting more time away from our friends, we just grabbed some zucchini and squash out of the fridge, our favorite infused olive oil, and some cheese and just showed up at their house with unprepared food. They didn’t mind. They are our friends. My husband didn’t get anything done in the yard that day, but the time invested in all of these relationships was so much more valuable.

Sometimes I fall into the trap of thinking other things are more important. We have a small and crowded house with a kitchen table that only seats four. So sometimes I am reluctant to have more than a few people over at a time because I am self-conscious about asking people to eat in their laps! But the times I have gotten over it and just invited people to crowd on in have been some of my favorite memories in this house. I have to remind myself of that and just open the handprint smudged door wide.

Like Amos McGee, we have a lot to do in this zoo we call our lives, but our family has decided to be intentional about making time for our friends.

 

A personal sports team April 25, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kristi @ 12:42 pm
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Friends are very important to girls, I have noticed. They even keep score about them: how many they have, what their ranking is. Friends are like a girl’s very own personal sports team. (from Ellray Jakes is NOT a Chicken! by Sally Warner)

I have to say, this is true to my memory growing up. I know it was important to have lots of friends and to know who was the best friend, the second best friend, and so on. I’d say, in my experience, this was most critical between about third and sixth grade.

But friends are still very important to girls, even when we’re all grown up. We may not be ranking them anymore or keeping score, but we have to have them around to protect our sanity. In my opinion, they are still like a personal sports team and each one has an important roll to play. As usual, I am thinking of motherhood and the way my friends support me in that roll. I have to have them, from the coach who knows all the strategies of the game and can teach them to me to the cheerleader who enthusiastically encourages even when I feel like I’m losing. From the players who block me from injury and play along side me to the water girls who bring much needed refreshment when I am totally spent.

I don’t even want to think about how hard this game would be if I didn’t have my very own personal sports team.

 

Darling April 24, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kristi @ 11:56 am
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I love it when she calls me that. Darling. I love it more than my own name. I felt like giving her one hundred and thirty-two kisses.


(from Alvin-Ho: Allergic To Dead Bodies, Funerals, And Other Fatal Circumstances by Lenore Look)

It’s wonderful to have a three-year-old because he’s old enough to talk and start to explain what is happening in his mind, but young enough to be unashamedly sweet and loving, young enough to tell me what he wants and what he loves without being embarrassed. This quote from Alvin-Ho reminded me of my boy.

We have many little nicknames for him, lots of terms of endearment that just float around our house. But I’m starting to see that he prefers different ones for different times. The other day he was hurt. I picked him up in my lap and stroked his hair. “Are you okay?” I said. “Yeah, I’m okay. Can you call me Baby Bear and  rock me?”  What a precious moment. How sweet to be able to meet his needs exactly because he tells me exactly what he needs.

Another day recently he said, “Mom! I goed in the potty like such a big boy now you say I’m SOOOOO proud, Benjamin!” Sometimes when he has, ahem, a big potty accomplishment he’ll ask for a few M&Ms or mini marshmallows because we used these rewards when we first trained him. But that day he just wanted some praise, some words of affirmation, just to hear me say that I was proud of him. It was the only reward he wanted.

I can’t help but think, what would it be like if we grown-ups weren’t too cool to be vulnerable like that? What would happen if we just asked for what we need or want instead of just hoping that our friends and spouses and moms will read our minds? Sometimes people even offer to help or to comfort and we say, “Oh, I’m fine! Don’t worry about me.” We forget that we might also be causing them to miss some joy in getting to help or to hug. I’m not suggesting that we all become just like three-year-olds or whine for what we want, expecting someone to cater to our every whim. But we could stand to be more vulnerable.

I’m learning this, nine-months pregnant with a broken toe and a lot to do. I’m learning to say, “Yes! I do need someone to pick up my son for me so I can rest for a few hours.” And, “Sure–I’d love to have some help with my laundry or my sewing project.”  “Oh, a drink from Sonic would be lovely if it’s on your way. Thank you!”  Even, “Honey, I’m having a rough day. Do you think you could play with my hair while we talk?”

 

Untangled January 3, 2012

Filed under: Chapter Books,Classics — Kristi @ 11:31 pm
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Laura’s thoughts untangled from their ugly snarls and became smooth and peaceful. She thought, “I will be good. It doesn’t matter how hateful Nellie Oleson is, I will be good.” (from Little Town on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder)

This has been such a struggle for me lately–untangling my thoughts from their ugly snarls when other people are misbehaving. It is hard. My sister is going through a really hard time with a person who is just making her life more and more miserable with every interaction. For me, to find it in my heart to forgive the person who hurts my loved ones is so much harder than forgiving the person who hurts me.

But as much as I despise this person (and I really, really do), I hate more the way it feels to be filled with hatred. I want my thoughts to smooth out, to untangle and be peaceful and calm. It was hard for Laura Ingalls and it’s hard for me–it’s probably hard for everybody–but I will decide to think about things that are uplifting, pure, noble, and good no matter what others may do or say.

 

A daughter December 21, 2011

Filed under: Classics — Kristi @ 10:03 pm
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Years rolled on again, and Wendy had a daughter. This ought not to be written in ink but in a golden splash. (from Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie)

Yesterday I had a sonogram and discovered that we are having a baby girl. I have loved being mama to a little boy, but something about a girl is just so exciting. I haven’t really been able to put my finger on it, but today I read an article in my MOPS Momsense magazine that may hold the key. The article was by Carol Kuykendall about fun being a family value. She says, “If we live out our average life expectancy, we will spend twice as many years as adults together with our children as we do when they are living at home with us.” She goes on to talk about forging the kinds of relationships with our kids that will cause them to want to be our friends when they enter adulthood.

I think that’s what it is about a daughter–it’s a chance to grow your own best friend. I can share with her the books, recipes, movies, jokes, values, and experiences that I love in hopes that she will love them too. I love my son and I have so much fun with him. I hope he will be my friend when he’s all grown up (tear!) too. But, God willing, my daughter and I will one day be women together, understanding things that men cannot.

I’m so glad she’s a girl. I think I would have been really relieved if we had heard “boy” yesterday just because I already have all the boy stuff and kind of know what to do now. And I think sometime a while back I started thinking of myself as a “mother of boys,” probably because I babysit my nephew five days a week while also caring for my son. I could just picture myself with three boys in the end. So it took a little while for the “girl” news to settle in with me yesterday. But once it did, it was like a golden splash.

When is too early to start her on Anne of Green Gables? And is there a 12-step program for Pinterest addiction? Because the girl stuff on Pinterest is so darn cute I can’t even stand it.