Years ago, after we had just had Brayden, the Whites (Travis and Stephanie) became quite the consistent fixture in our life. They would frequently visit us - and while Travis would spend a lot of the time bantering with John, Stephanie would invariably end up taking care of Brayden. She would willingly (and seemingly happily) do the yucky stuff - change his diaper, clean up his burb-mess (he was a messy "throw-up" burper), etc. etc. As the years went on, this same pattern continued and expanded to include Mikayla - as well as Traig, Natalia, and Ellison.
Travis stepped in as well. On nights when we were "so ready for an adult break", he'd willingly enter the fray of the boys and engage them in physical activity or a video game.
To say we felt a bit of a guilt about their enthusiasm for being there for our kids when we weren't as always excited to be at the end of the week is a bit of an understatement. But, not enough to stop them in their acts of service....just enough to continually offer the "Ah, Steph (Travis), you don't need to do that...I can get it". But, we knew, that offer would be rejected and we'd blissfully be able to continue the tv viewing, book reading, or computer surfing we were otherwise engaged in.
What puzzled me at the time was their motivation. I knew it was based in love, but it was hard to fully grasp given they weren't actually related to our kids. First and foremost, they were motivated by the love for our children - a love that was frequently rewarded by special acts of reciprocation by our kids or clever phrases and funny things the kids said that they alone seem to remember (unmuddled by the fog of parenting). But, not always. Dirty diapers have little reward - much less breaking up sibling/cousin arguments, or witnessing the rising selfishness that overcome both of my children (the dominant sin John and I both struggle with, passed on in genetic and environment legacy). Irregardless, there's not a thing they wouldn't do for our kids - even if, Heaven forbid, that meant taking them in as their own (in the event Michael, Michele, John, and I all died together).
The second motivation, I have to recognize, was their love for us. They have stepped in with fresh energy when we were worn out - offering the gift of attention to our kids when we have lost steam. They knew this enormity of this love language to us, and offered it with abundance.
So, just now, as I went in to the bedroom to take a nap, I ended up dropping the idea and dramatically stomping in to reclaim my computer so I could type out my revelation before I lost the words. Because, just now, as I thought through the events of last night, our visit with the Whites and Michele and I practically coming to blows over who got to hold the very fussy Whitley or change her diaper, or feed her her bottle - I "got it". I know that LOVE....I grasp that motivation.
I LOVE Whitley. I am not immune to the fact that she can be a fussy one from the hours of 6-10:00 in the evening (she fights sleep, doesn't want to miss out on the party...oh dear, just like Brayden!). I realize she likes to be held - a lot - and this could make my usual Christmas overload of activity a little hard to juggle. I know she is going to someday (all too soon) develop habits that will be acts of real will and not just the absolute innocence she possesses right now. But, I love her. Not a feeling, but an action - surpassing my usual self-centered tendencies with an insane pull (and exhibited by last night, demonstrating itself in the same way with Michele). The "First Corinthians 13" kind of love - the EXACT same kind of love the Whites have given with such an overwhelming abundance to all five of our kids.
When I tell folks that my life roll is soon going to change as I become the caretaker for Whitley Monday through Friday while Trav and Steph are at work - I am most often met with a "What?!", "Really?!", "Are you sure about this?!". It's a hard concept to grasp I guess, but the actual decision to do so has never been a question for me. It sprang to my heart and mind as soon as Steph and Trav walked through our door last Christmas night with their announcement of pregnancy and concern on how on earth they were going to make it work. Just like the story of Esther in the Bible, it truly was a "For such a time as this" life-decision. One that John whole-heartedly, without-reservation, agreed with.
Throughout the pregnancy my heart fell in love with the idea of Whitley, and while I fielded questions of doubt about having a baby again in my daily life, I had no doubt God would work it all out. It's what HE planned out. However, what I didn't truly anticipate is this enormity of love I have for her, what the hint of a smile on her face, or the reaching of her little fingers to clutch my hair or hand, can do to my soul.
I realize this is a whole different ballgame than I have for my own
kids. Love defined differently, as it should be. But, it is exactly
the same love Travis and Stephanie have been exhibiting towards our
children for over 13 years. And, now, THANK GOD, they get to experience
that same kind of love we've had for own kids too - as parents of their
own daughter. It's indescribable - all of it, but I'm starting to get
Friday, September 28, 2012
For just five hours (9:30-2:30), Steph Hoffman, Lisa Quigley, and myself were able to make a get-away to Proxy Falls and the Metolius area. It was a color explosion of the best Oregon has to offer and we were did our best to absorb every short minute of it and each other's company.
I knew I was pushing it for time, but I persuaded the girls to drive a bit further to Camp Sherman along the Metolius River.
My dad is working on the Vickers' vacation home there along the river. The house that formerly existed on the property that they owned was quite old, dark, and inefficient use of space for the uses they had in mind for the home. So, that house was removed - and this log house was put in its place. The log portion of it was designed by a company that builds the houses together down in Medford, then dismantles and reassembles it on site. Dad has been overseeing that as well as everything else. It is a GORGEOUS home (only 1200 sq ft, the maximum size the home could be on that property....just perfect for a cabin on the river), on the most dramatically beautiful property alongside this branch of the Metolius River. This is the back view of the house...turned this way you see the house, from the other direction is the picture above of the river.
View of the river from the interior windows.
The front of the home.
I hadn't warned Dad about visiting, but verified earlier in the week that Dad would be there when I saw my mom. (Lately, he's been spending Monday through Friday in a motel in nearby Sisters, as the property is 100 miles away from Eugene). It was fun to just show up and surprise him - super delightful, in fact - and partake in the tour he gave Steph, Lisa, and myself of the home.
We made a very quick stop here on the way out of Camp Sherman - so we could hurry back to pick up kids from school.
What a remarkable way to spend a weekday without kids in tow - for sure, a huge lift to our souls to have the refreshment of God's creation and each other's friendship.
Tuesday, September 25, 2012
Sunday, September 23, 2012
Last night, we had our first 2012 Duck game as a family. It felt good to not "leave them behind" as we set foot in Autzen.
We purchased some tickets just one section over, virtually in our same row, that Brayden and John sat at, while Mikayla and I took our season ticket positions.
Because Whitley had not afforded Travis and Stephanie a whole lot of sleep, they opted to sell their night game tickets to these two who wouldn't have a problem staying up until past midnight (the time in which we finally got out of the parking lot to leave). I miss the Whites being there with us, but if it's not going to be them, it's super fun to have Heather and Kaela just two rows up from us.
And, then, at half time, the newlyweds, Kelli and Brian, stopped by to visit.
The traditional lead-off of the athletes, with the Duck on the back of the Harley owned and driven by Doug Koke, a work buddy of John's.
The final score of the game was 49-0. You would have never guessed it would have ended up that way with how it began. The Ducks were sloppy and on 6 different occasions Arizona was able to get into the red zone, but never came away with a score. Our defense was magnificent last night - and there were some new players strutting their stuff too. I think the end score helps everyone to forget about the first half. The potential the Ducks have when they are all in sync and running on all cylinders is pretty amazing - I guess that's why they were ranked #2 in the AP Poll this morning. (And for the record, way to go Beavers - who beat UCLA yesterday....yet another upset. That earned them a place in the top 25....#18 in fact. It's fun to have two Oregon teams successful right now and even more when I know how much the Schillings want to see them succeed).
During halftime, Mikayla was able to find her classmate buddy, Harley, who has season tickets about 20 rows up from us.
This family sits right next to me....Kerry, Brenda, and Cade. This is their second year with these seats and I really adore them all - particularly Cade - who has a fun connection with me, and a pretty obvious crush on Mikayla.
They spent a good chunk of time playing with apps on the Kindles both Brenda and I brought.
Overall, it was a fantastic evening. We were surprised with the light rain that lasted throughout most of the game - it was annoying, but not cold. So fun to come as a family - we've already purchased tickets for them to be able to go to our next home game with us too...definitely positive bonding time.
Saturday, September 22, 2012
In my efforts to do my very best to be outside as much as possible, I've tried to arrange for any "hang out meetings" with friends my age or the younger ladies that I want to stay in touch with to happen in the form of walking together.
This has a ton of benefits-
1.) A walk is a natural way and posture to communicate, especially when you are first getting to know someone. You aren't staring awkwardly at one another across the table while drinking coffee, or trying to keep your intimate conversation discreet from other patrons.
2.) It has a tangible start and stop point. This river walk where these pictures are taken takes about 75 minutes to complete the loop (give or take based on pace). That's just about perfect for a first time visit with someone. I've made the mistake before of inviting girls that I have yet to establish a real relationship with to come over to my house. Nothing wrong with that, I wanted them to feel welcome and hopefully cozy in our home. However, there's no good end point - and there's been some awkward moments when you are wondering if they feel like they are trapped as they make no move to leave on their accord....(It cracks me up, actually. When I was their age, invited to the home of some "older woman" - I'd have had an exit strategy firmly in place with some place "I had to be" at a certain time ready to pull out as soon as needed!).
3.) Usually, I take Sydney - and she's a good distraction and conversation starter right from the start. She desperately needs the exercise and loves any and all walks (especially if a squirrel or cat makes and appearance)...
4.) Speaking of exercise - uh, yeah!!! Done in tandem with visits to the gym, it can only help in the efforts to drop weight (which IS happening...slowly but surely - 10 pounds down as of this morning....about that same amount still to go!).
5.) It's outside - currently in the sunshine - and glorious. The leaves are turning, geese overhead. I'm hopeful to keep the walks going as much as possible, as just being outside is one of the best remedies for Seasonal Affective Disorder which will be kicking in within the next couple of months.
Here's a couple of pics taken with Alysha....I think by the end of September, I'll have had about ten different walks/hikes under my belt with people that I really admire, appreciate, and have missed. Keep 'em coming!
The amount of time spent devoted to my hair this week is just downright embarrassing. You can tell I've gotten a little bored with it and have been in the mood to try new things.
Thing #1, attempting "pin curls" (inspired by Pinterest...of course). I quickly learned that "pins" (bobby pins) didn't cut it as far as holding my hair - clips were much more effective. I probably spun and twisted forty different strands into place and then dried it all using a diffuser.
I have naturally curly hair, but without a lot of product and encouragement, it's hit or miss as to which strands completely hold the curl. Clearly, this method GUARANTEES curls....this was right after I took all the clips out. It's like a perm gone bad, huh?
This was taken the night before when I had tried this method the first time....upon styling it a little bit.
So, end conclusion and recommendation: Unless I am absolutely in the mood for crazy curls...it's much more time-effective to just use a curling iron - not to mention more manageable.
Friday morning was the time to make a more permanent hair change. I opted to wash and straighten my hair for Christi's sake so that when she applied color she wasn't having to brush through frizz and ringlets (she was very appreciative!). Here's our before picture:
And, this is the "after" - sporting a much more red hue. I'm VERY happy with it....LOVE it. I was a red-head as a kid, so it's fun to have this color again, especially in the fall.
This will be the last time I sit in this chair with Christi doing my hair at Bello. As she is moving to California, her position at Bello is officially done. =( However, given her parents still live in Eugene, we're not giving up on her still being the one to take care of the family's hair....we could help offset the price to fly back to visit, afterall! That's the plan, anyway, and good-byes are always easier when you have a plan as to when we'll see each other again. In her case, it will be sometime in November, and again after Christmas. Okay, that's do-able. So, Christi, so-much-more-than-the-master-hair-stylist - rather a very dear friend who happens to be gifted with hair - good-bye....but, we will see you soon!
Friday, September 21, 2012
Thursday night brought the official return to our "TNL" - aka "Thursday Night Ladies". Unfortunately, not everyone's schedules were in sync...Elaina, Amanda, and Suzie weren't able to make it.
However, Stephie, Kimmie, Kaela, and Heather were here and we had a delightfully goofy, yet productive time. We chowed down on Garlic Chicken, caught up on each others' lives, and hammered out this chart for our game-plan through 2012. We are taking on a different topic each week with each person being held responsible for providing the insight God impressed upon them regarding that topic, whether it's straight from the Bible, a devotional, notes from a sermon, a song, etc. I am excited to see how it all comes together each week.
Thursday, September 20, 2012
I feel like I spend January through June complaining so much about the weather in Oregon, that when it is truly glorious, as it is now, I have to give it all the credit I can. September is my favorite month in terms of Oregon weather....and it hasn't disappointed one bit. As much as I love the sunshine and brilliance during the day, it's equally great to be able to bundle up at night again - pull out the jackets and feel the briskness. Such was the case last night when we attended Brayden's 8pm football game at Sheldon High School.
Once again, Brayden had quite the fan club. My eyes were only on Whitley though, as I quickly swooped her up upon arrival to give her her bottle and cuddle her close.
Brayden's "family" fan club....as always, John's behind the camera.
And, his "friends-family" fan club; Travis and Stephanie, Heather, Michael and sitting below Michael is Michelle - a sweetheart that has helped to "nanny" for the Meyers family.
This picture shows Brayden jumping up to make a reception for the point-after play. Unfortunately, this play took place after the previous play in which he ran it to the goal line got called back. (Which made him very unhappy). What happened after this play was Brayden getting pummeled and flying out of bounds. Our whole fan club (along with much of the other Sheldon supporters) let out a collective gasp after seeing that (after going nuts in enthusiasm with the previous play). He's okay, banged up his knee a bit, but mostly it's his attitude that took a hit.
I like this picture highlighting not only the support Brayden gets from his teammates, but showing just how little he is in comparison. I know they admire his heart.
All that said, though, it's been a rough three days with our boy. He barely played at all in Washington on Sunday, and then didn't feel like he was used as he could have been last night. Much less, feeling like he got a lot of trash talk and cussing from the other team directed just to him.
John spoke to one of the coaches that works more directly with Brayden and asked what it is Brayden could be doing to play more. The coach sadly pointed out that Brayden is doing everything he could to earn that playing time, but it's not in his hands. So is the business of being on the top Pop Warner team of the league with a very-winning coach, but it is defeating for Brayden. I'm just happy to hear that he is recognized by a couple of the coaches as having the talent to play more and giving the heart to do so....what the head coach decides is obviously out of our hands. That being said, I do see him playing quite a bit on the average game, and he's had a shot at having some highlight plays. Not to mention, that team is a powerhouse of talent.... In high school, there will be no minimum play requirements, so he could end up on the bench all season long without the coach having to explain his reasoning to anyone.
At the bottom of it all is Brayden going through a tough time. He's back at school, having to concentrate, work hard, take orders. He has homework he has to do upon getting home and then an hour and a half later he's a practice. When he gets home again, it's time for bed within the hour. This is NOT the sort of circumstances that Brayden thrives upon. Instead, he falls apart. As he's been doing every night for the last three nights. John is practically pulling out his hair trying to communicate with him - a difficult task when at their core, they are two very similar beings that both take what each other says so personally, that it's hard for both of them to get their words out before being hurt.
John and I both want to "heal, fix, or cure" this place in Brayden's life. And, at the same time, we feel like literally kicking his butt to say, "buck up" this is life, and you can't just check out of the family with a war cry of "life isn't fair".
(On a sidenote, at this moment, Brayden is giggling with me about "Flinstone Kids" on the Boomerang channel and how poor little Fred is getting left behind....we haven't lost our playful guy completely, it's just harder to find that part of him right now).
I long for him to be back at Harlow, doing what he loves and being exposed to an environment of people seeking the Lord vs. the 6 hours a day he's exposed to attitudes and language that are in total contrast of what would glorify the Lord. But, this is all part of his story, a chapter he needs to get through...and I'm definitely not the author of his story.