Thursday, August 28, 2008

Met expectations.

I spent the day with Dea yesterday because of a dentist appointment. Technically, he was done at noon but his dentist is clear on the other side of town and running a few errands on the way home gave us the opportunity to hang out with a doctor's excuse.

Hey, it's not like this is my first rodeo. I was at my beloved Klein High School just a few short years ago (or 18) and I know a thing or two about working the system.

He's really a great kid. He's funny, polite, and a little awkwardly thankful for anything that's done for him. I loved getting some time with just he and Sadie to talk and laugh and learn more about his life before he came to live with us and what he wants it to look like beyond high school.

Before his dentist appointment, we had to stop by the shelter where his parents are living to pick up his Medicaid forms so he could give them to his dentist. Dea said that in his 17 years, he had never seen his dad work even one day.

I've told you before what an incredible work ethic Dea has. He's never missed a day and is both on time and willing to stay later if needed. I've never heard him once complain about having to work or being scheduled on a Friday and Saturday night when most of his friends are hanging out. He's also saved almost every penny he's earned and now has more money in the bank than he's ever seen before, except maybe the money stuffed into the dashboard of the dealer they knew from their old apartments.

When we went to pick up his paperwork from his father, I waited in the car and Dea went to the corner where they had arranged to meet. I didn't see what transpired but after just a minute, Dea was back in my car ready to go. He had a look in his eyes of both disappointment and confirmed expectations.

"What did he say, bud?"

"He shook my hand and asked me if I had any money for him. I told him 'no' so he handed me the paper and walked off."

I wanted to scream. For once in this kid's life, I want his father to be a father to him. To look him in the eye and see what we see. To be proud of him without asking for money, or beer, or cigarettes.

There is a great need in this community for fathers. We've got more 'baby daddy's' than we know what to do with but few of them know what it means to be a father. The result shows up in the eyes of a son who, even when he's learned to have no expectations, he can't help but hope that, one day, it will be different.

Thank you, Lord, that you are a Father to the fatherless and promise not to do harm but to give us a future and a hope.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

A right of passage or too much information.

Tomorrow is our first day of school. I know most schools have already started and stores have not restocked all of the school supplies sold over the last several days. I didn't exactly plan ahead this year. I did not get school supplies until today and panicked a little when I started at Wal-mart and they were out of wide ruled notebook paper. It wasn't a real good sign.

What I also hadn't done was have Olivia actually try on her uniform until about 8:45 tonight. I literally held my breath hoping the sizes I'd bought were right. If not, no biggie. She just wouldn't start school because her mom procrastinated and, with my current bank account status, the years of therapy she would need would be a breeze.

While we were checking sizes, I remembered just a couple of years ago when she was trying her uniform on for the first time and she was so excited she wanted to wear it everywhere we went. To the store, the mall, the pool. Wherever heavily starched cotton/poly blends would be most comfortable. Now, she's not so excited. She's kind of Jenny from the Block and uniforms don't do it for her anymore. Backpacks maybe, uniforms no.

This year she went for the pink camo messenger bag "cause it has space for everything; her lunch, her pencils, even her laptop."

"But, Olivia, you don't have a laptop."

"I know, I just like being prepared."

Tee's been long over the uniforms, I mean, he's totally in fourth grade now. Totally. But we did make a little purchase for him tonight that lit him up like the 4th of July.

He's playing baseball again this fall and his coach told him he needs a cup.

You mean a Solo cup? Cup O'Noodles? Tea cup?

No, you know, a cup. An athletic supporter.

Ohmygosh, ohmygosh, ohmygosh. Seriously? Oh, this is for sure a job for Trey. I'm out. Officially out.

That boy came home from Academy like the cat that ate the canary. He ran upstairs, put that thing on then ran around the house telling everyone he saw to "Knock it! Seriously! Knock it as hard as you can! I can't feel a thing!"

He said it was so great he was going to wear it ALL THE TIME under all of his clothes because, 'I mean, even four-square can be dangerous for, you know, everything'.

After dinner, Olivia accidentally bumped her head and climbed into my lap crying.

Tee said, "Liv, you should totally get a cup to wear on your head. Then if you bumped it, it wouldn't even hurt."

If I had been drinking milk, it would have shot out my nose.

*

Monday, August 25, 2008

One Less.

In the country of Ethiopia, there are an estimated 4.5 million orphans.

Today, there is one less.


Soli Deo Gloria.

Edited: We had to take the video down because of privacy policies with the orphanages in Ethiopia. Email me if you want to see it. I'm easy that way.
*

Friday, August 22, 2008

Look what the dog dragged in.

Our dogs, Fern and Scout, have gotten into some really bad habits. They get on the furniture, lick my children's ice cream cones when they're not looking, and every time we open the front door, if they can find a way, they dart out and go for a run around the neighborhood. They're really not getting into any trouble, they don't dig up anything or bite anyone, they just do a little sprint, kinda like a quick 400 and then come on back to our front door spent and thirsty. You're probably thinking they should be more disciplined. You may be right, dog whispererer, but I like to look at life with a 'glass half full' perspective; my dogs take themselves for a walks.

This morning I was loading up the little ones for a park date when Scout and Fern, as usual, made a break for it. When we need to, we can keep them inside but Sadie was the last one out the door and they can smell weakness. They shoved past her and sprinted around the corner. I was, for the first time in my life, running late so I asked Dea and Darius to let the scoundrels back in when they heard them scratching on the front door.

"No problem."

What I apparently forgot to mention was that the dogs are to leave anything they find on their self-walk at the front door. Doritos bags, plastic bottles, rib bones, etc. are not allowed to cross the threshold of our house. Those treasures have to stay on the front porch to be properly disposed of. As I'm writing this I'm thinking maybe my dogs are, like, adopting my neighborhood, kind of like the Adopt-a-Highway program. Cleanin' as they go.

I knew I could spin it.

It became obvious that I had forgotten to mention the whole leaving trash at the front door thing when ten minutes later I got a phone call from Darius...

"MaMelissa, Scout brought a bird into the house."

"Is it alive?"

"It's totally alive but not flying. What do we do?"

Ok, I've read "Are You My Mother?" so many times I could recite it in my sleep so I immediately had a plan.

"Darius, here's what I want you to do. Walk around the corner and try to find the nest. I'm sure it's right in our neighbor's tree and you just reach up, up, up, and put that baby right back in it's nest. Then, when his momma comes home with her red kerchief tied around her head, he'll have quite a story for her."

It's become apparent to me now that the Mama Bird in that story was obviously a Blood 'cause of the red kerchief. If she were a Crip, it would have been blue. It's always nice to have a little insight into a sweet children's story such as what gang the characters are affiliated with. Don't you think?

Back to my problem...

"Uh, MaMelissa...it's not exactly a baby. It's kinda big."

"Seriously? Alright, deep breath. Just put it in a box and I'll be home in a couple of hours."

Yeah, it was a little bigger than I thought.

This is Larry Bird. We may love animals but we're not creative.


Look at that thing! It's a pigeon that my dog caught and wounded. Now what am I supposed to do with it? Trey and Hannah both think we're all going to get bird flu.


We're giving him water from a Solo cup and digging up worms for him. We're obviously struggling with guilt and trying to cover over the sins of our dogs with canned corn.

Looks like we might be forgiven for now, but where's this thing sleeping tonight?


Is it me or are those eyes saying, "Wanna fnuggle?"

Thursday, August 21, 2008

I think I'm ready for school to start.

Yesterday Olivia, Sadie and I were playing veterinarian. Olivia was the Vet, I was the momma (I think I may be typecast), and Sadie was my pet kitty who was violently ill. Her symptoms were loud, gravely meows and a mismatched hair bow. Serious, serious.

I put her on her lead and took her to the Vet for a proper diagnosis and treatment.

I left her for a while so I could clean the bathrooms. Multi-tasking is my specialty.

After checking her vitals, kitty was diagnosed with Kitty Kough and prescribed rest, playing quietly, no dogs, and a re-check in a week.

I then asked Olivia the Vet if she could prescribe some sedatives for Sadie, I mean my kitty, to help with the whole "rest and quiet play" thing.

"What's a sedative, Mommy?"

Nevermind.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Recipe Wednesday.

I really do love to cook, especially when it's a recipe I know is tried and true. I like knowing it has gone before me to many a table with success. And by success I mean that 100% of the children at said table has eaten it without being bribed or threatened.

This is one of those recipes. My little kids love it, my husband loves it, and my stinky teenagers love it without drowning it in Ranch Dressing. Especially the one who helped me prepare it. In his honor, I'm renaming it "Darius Pasta". It was originally called Peasant Pasta by my good friend Rachel. I found it on her site but, since there are literally thousands of recipes you could cull through, I'm being kind and saving you hours of precious time trying to find a great recipe for your family.

Your welcome.

I love this one because it has two of my favorite ingredients.

Garlic and Basil.



They make this dish divine.

As I was cooking, I also poured myself a glass of wine because it's summer and that's my excuse today.


Wait a second, who put those Milk Duds there? Rascals.


There we go. Much better. Now this recipe takes about 15 minutes to prepare so don't count on finishing your glass of wine. I love delicious recipes that are fast, too!

Here's what you need.
Just a note. This recipe will feed six.
You can double it if you need to since it's great for lunch the next day.

Darius Pasta
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 pound hot Italian sausage, available in bulk at butcher counter or, 2 links, casings removed. This is my favorite part because it adds a little heat and great flavor. Sometimes I'll do three links of each kind of sausage just because the hot is so yummy.
1 pound sweet Italian sausage, available in bulk at butcher counter or, 4 links, casings removed
3 to 4 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 cup chicken or vegetable broth
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup heavy cream
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup frozen green peas
24 leaves fresh basil, torn or thinly sliced
1 pound penne rigate pasta, cooked to al dente
Shredded parmesan cheese

Here's what you do.

First, get your water boiling for the pasta. Once it boils, cook it to al dente. I love saying al dente but it comes up as a typo in blogger. Weird.

Next heat a large skillet to medium high and pour your oil in the pan. Add the sausage and brown. Drain off all that yucky grease and then add your garlic and saute for a minute until the garlic has softened. De-glaze your pan with your chicken broth and add your tomatoes. Get that simmering gently and add your heavy cream. The cream makes it rich and fine.

This is when Darius pushed me out of the way to stir it all together.


Next add your basil and peas. I know the peas sound a little like a third wheel in this recipe but it adds great flavor and it gets one more serving of veggies in those stinky children. Even Darius eats em right up.

After all your ingredients have been added, salt and pepper to taste and mix with your pasta.


If you can get your children to make it to the table, more power to you. Darius just ate his right there at the kitchen counter.



Enjoy!

Monday, August 18, 2008

I promise this is the last of it.

I promise I won't keep posting about camp since you're probably bored out of your mind but since camp apparently hasn't ended over here at the Hill house, I don't have much else to talk about.

We all did the zip line several times while at Pine Cove and I'm not ashamed to say I almost cried. I am petrified of heights and standing on that platform about did me in. All my kids were with me so I had to put on a brave face but I swear I was trembling out of control. The cute counselors just kept saying, "Just look at me. You're going to be fine. You can do it." What I heard was "Blah, Blah, Blah. You're about to jump to your death." I'm not kidding, even writing about makes my stomach hurt a little.


That being said, it was awesome and with great compassion, I gave the counselors permission to push both my girls off. Shhhh. Don't tell. They loved it like I knew they would so it's all good.


Graham, Tee and Darius went about 6 times each proving something, I'm just not sure exactly what.



Last night, the kids were all playing in the front yard and came running in to show us the zip-line they'd made.


I'm pretty sure American Girl Doll Samantha and her servant girl Nellie weren't doing some extreme sports back in the day.

I'm also pretty sure my neighbors think we're crazy.

And, is it me or does Graham look like he works out? He's six. It's so not fair.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Camp and other fun stuff.

Well slap me and call me Francis, I got a new look. Karen over at Simply Amusing Designs hooked me up and I love it. Trey was falling asleep every time he looked at my blog so he thought it was high-time for a change.

Head on over and check her out but know she can transform the heck out of a blog but cannot make your thighs thinner or rid you of gray hair. I've already asked.

On another note, we're back from Pine Cove Outback and oh, mercy, mercy me what a week it was. I did not grow up going to camp and knew not the finer points of summer camp. This was evidenced by the fact that I packed hairspray. Trey was a lifelong summer camper so, aside from toiletries, I took his advice when it came to packing everything else. I forgot he was a boy. He told me I would only need one towel the whole time and the kids could just take sleeping bags. Without sheets or anything.

Oh, really?

It was so comfortable for the kids that three out of the six nights, I had two children in bed with me under my down blanket and clean sheet.

It was a twin bed and getting up in the morning has never been more interesting.

Being with all the Mercy Street kids was amazing and so challenging all at the same time. I watched child after child conquer fears and inhibitions on the zip line, power pole, and iceberg. To see the looks on their faces was absolutely priceless and the victories they felt succeeding at something they never thought they would have the opportunity to try was incredible.

They bonded with precious counselors who told us over and over they had looked forward to this week all summer.

We also dealt with discipline issues that were incredibly humbling. The anger stored up in the hearts of some of these kids manifests itself in ways that are unpredictable and illogical. One minute a child would be having the time of their lives and the next they were calling their counselors or us every name in the book and not the good one. We were all brought to our knees before the foot of the Cross daily in search of patience and wisdom beyond our years. I do know hearts were changed whether the Lord fully captured them this week or simply planted seeds that we now have the opportunity to water all year long. It was a time to get out of the "noise" of the city and come face to face in so many ways with what and who we are building our identity upon.

Our prayer now is to finish the race set before us and to take even more kids again next year to experience the love and mercy of Christ falling over them like a sweet spring rain.


Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Good the Bad and the Ugly.

We're home safe and sound and with all of our children in tact from camp.
They had a terrific time and we loved hearing about everything they did all week. I will say that sending a girl is great because we got lots more detail from her than we did from Tee. These are just a few of the things we heard yesterday that made us laugh and cry.

The Good.
On the way to camp; "Look Sadie, a cow! Look! There's a horse! And look at the rooster!"
The Bad.
Graham then yells as we pass a cemetery; "Look Sadie, dead people!"

The Good.
Olivia pulled us outside and said; "Mom, Dad, I know you're going to start freaking out and be so excited when I tell you this... I asked Jesus into my heart this week."
The Bad.
She then looked at Graham and said; "Graham, you're going to Hell."

The Good.
"Guess what! At camp, we learned a new word for 'bottom'! You call it a watermelon."
The Ugly.
"Mom, you have a really big watermelon."


Mercy Street is taking 60 or so kids back to Pine Cove today for the week and our whole family has been invited. We thought it would be so hectic washing all the kids' clothes from last week and then repacking them. As we went through their bags, we found that Olivia had only worn two shirts and two pair of shorts the whole time she was gone.

The Good.
Tee apparently changed clothes more often than Olivia.
The Bad.
He only wore one pair of underwear. All week.

I'll try to post from camp but if I can't, I'll see ya'll when we get back! If I give you the address, could you send me a care package with Milk Duds and Diet Coke? On second thought, maybe we should skip the Milk Duds 'cause, you know, my watermelon.

Have a great week!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Never a dull moment.

Mercy Street hosted a soccer clinic this week for the kids in the community and we had about 120 children come out for some great coaching and fellowship.

Yesterday, they closed up the clinic with a cookout. It's become kind of tradition to wrap up just about any event with some food. Burgers to be exact. Mercy Street has a large event grill and yesterday a partner church brought their's out as well. Trey was manning the thing when a propane hose came off shooting pressurized propane out which then caught fire and enveloped Trey in a 10 foot explosion. Trey said it happened so fast and he dropped and rolled just like they'd taught him on Sesame Street.

By the grace of God, he wasn't seriously hurt but he drove himself to the emergency room to get checked out. Trey is not a fan of doctors or ointments for that matter so when I learned he had gone to the ER, I knew he must be in some kind of pain. What he ended up with was first degree burns on his arm and face which is now pretty swollen and blistering but a far cry from how bad it could have been.

After I knew he was fine and his spirits were good, I told him he smelled like BBQ and am going to call him 'Head Wound Harry' for a while just for fun. It seems, for a week or so, I may for once be the cute one in our relationship. He had to be burned for me to supplant him as resident cute spouse, so it's a little bittersweet.

Ok, seriously, for the second time this summer, the Lord has used fire to teach us about His care and protection. I've been reading a book that speaks to the fact that our practical theology, or the way we live day to day, often contradicts what say we believe on Sunday mornings. Thankfully, though our faith sometimes waivers, the Lord's faithfulness is unshakable and constant. And sometimes, because of His great mercy, we get a glimpse of the restraining hand of God holding disaster at bay for our good and His glory.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Something funky.

One of the things I planned to do while my kids were out of town this week was clean out their rooms.

I started with the worst which was the big boys. If you don't have teenage boys, let this be a warning to you. They stink. It's a smell that starts small and seems a little harmless, then it builds to a foul odor that brings tears to your eyes.

I think it has something to do with the combination of 105 degree temperature, basketball, and ramen noodles. Whatever it is, it's not pretty and I was determined to rid it from their room. Forever.

After I put on my HASMAT uniform, I called Darius in and said, "Bud, do you smell anything in here, or is it just me?" He sniffed for a good thirty seconds and then said, "Whew, there's something funky off in here!"

I KNOW!!!

We pulled dirty socks from under the bed, tee shirts from the closet floor and washed everything that we could in Gain Lavender Lilac Moment. After all that laundry, I was thinking more along the lines of Pinot Grigio moment. Then I shampooed the carpets and left the room smelling like a breath of fresh air.

This morning, they got up at 5:30 and went to the YMCA to play basketball. Then they came home, crawled back into their beds and went to sleep. Unshowered and stinky.

I wonder if Gain sells that stuff in fifty gallon drums.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

When bearded dragons have nightmares.

I walked into the girl's room last night to find this.


Does anyone know a good reptile psychotherapist? It looks like we're gonna need one.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Who's bright idea was this?


Sunday afternoon, we dropped Tee and Olivia off at Pine Cove for a week.

I don't know who thought it would be a good idea to take the fruit of my womb and place them 85 miles away from me for a week but I'm going to find you and give you a piece of my mind. Ok, I think it was me so, technically, I'm just having a moment talking to myself so you can go to your happy place for a minute if you need to.

Why? Why would you do this, Melissa? Did you think you could actually get along with only four children hanging around? No! You NEED six. You need the chaos. The quiet that has taken over the house is deafening. Did you think you would enjoy waking up in the morning and turning over only to find your dog fnuggling and not Olivia who sneaks in almost every night unbeknownst to you? Scout smells and hogs the covers. And what about the Legos? Tee's the only one who can leave Legos scattered about the house in such a way that only your bare feet step on them. It's like a little love shot of pain that you won't feel IF YOU SEND THEM AWAY TO CAMP!!!

Oh I get it, Maybe you thought you might sleep better while they were gone? I guess waking up at 3:30 am to see if new pictures had been posted in the camp's photo gallery might be your idea of a good night sleep IF. YOU. WERE. CRAZY!!!

Ok, enough with the self-flaggelation (I almost put self-flatulation. Embarrassing). You can come back from your happy place now.

I'm more than sure that our kids are having the time of their lives at camp but, it's been a little hard on the parents. We really miss them and can't wait to see their faces on Saturday. Last night, Trey's mom kept Graham and Sadie, and Trey and I had a real honest to goodness date. It had been a while so we started off at Lowe's. I could tell he was really trying to be romantic because he didn't insist on following Lowe's up with a trip to Bass Pro Shops to dine in the onsite restaurant. You know, two birds, one stone. After a great dinner at a real restaurant and a stop at Braum's to pick up some milk, 'cause that's what we do on dates, we were home by 9:00 and back on the website looking for glimpses of our children.

We are so lame.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

F.A.N.A.T.I.C.

Mercy Street and other ministry partners hosted a Christian hip-hop concert last night in the hood featuring Lacrea, The 116 Clique, and Trip Lee.

Now, normally, I'm a fan of hip-hop but can be somewhat turned off by the lyrics. They tend to be slightly derogatory in nature toward women and sometimes use language that can be deemed unacceptable in certain social circles.

Hey! Have I mentioned I'm running for President of the Understatement Society of America? How am I doing so far?

These guys are the furthest from their secular counterparts. They are devout followers of Christ and sing about their experiences and love of the Lord, and really speak from the heart to their audience.

Here's what Lacrea says about his call.

"In the world of Hip-Hop, representing SOMETHING is mandatory. Some represent their block, some their money and privilege, and others their knowledge and culture. Without diverting from the standard of representing something, Lecrae's goal is represent Christ and a holy culture. Instead of forsaking his urban roots and flavor, he uses them to put Christ and the Bible in a light that rap fans can understand. The aim is to digest theology and spit it back out so the streets can grasp it."

I've been a big fan for a while and was a little giddy about the opportunity to meet them.

So were my kids. Here they are with Lacrea.

Here they are with Trip Lee.

Graham enjoyed his snowcone. So did Sadie.

The event brought out the neighborhood. Young and old.




And more volunteers that we could have hoped for, especially since we had record highs of 106.

Now, let's be really honest here. I probably took about 125 pictures. Why so many? Is it because there were that many fantastic photo ops. or, was it because that's what a 36 year old white mother of four does at a hip hop concert when she has no rhythm?

Ding! Ding! Ding! Ding! People, we have a winner!