Thursday, February 26, 2009

Dear Flu,

I thought we had a deal. I would not buy into the flu "marketing propaganda". I would not get flu shots and would call them, loud enough for other people to hear, "non-sense". I would bring chicken soup and Milk Duds (again, very medicinal) to my friends who became victims of your viciousness, and nod sympathetically when they told of the horrors you brought to their homes and, especially, their carpet. In return, you would leave my family alone. You would pass over my house leaving us, and our carpet unscathed.

You, my viral friend, in the words of the great Elf, "...sit on a throne of lies!"

You have dropped in for a visit and I wasn't expecting compn'y.

To be more specific, I was totally unprepared. I had no Sprite, no Tylenol, and no homemade Chicken Soup in my freezer. (Ok, that one really isn't a big deal because my kids would take Ramen over homemade chicken soup any day.) And NO MILKDUDS!

You also must be capable of sadistic mind control because, instead of going to my precious pediatrician who would hug me, nod sympathetically, and load me up with free samples, I went to the "Minute Clinic" and got NONE OF THE ABOVE!

What I did get was charged for the one child who you've actually infected and then for each member of our family who has been exposed and needs to be treated. Hello, FLU! Do you know how to add? THAT'S EIGHT! And unless you've been living on the school drinking fountain or in a petri dish, you'd know we're in an economic recession!!!!

AAARRRRGGGHHH!!

Are you also aware that, in those "Minute Clinics", they have to take everyone's vitals before they'll give you a prescription? That means putting everyone on a scale. Have you ever weighed yourself in front of four children who think anything over 75 pounds is HUGE? Of course you haven't, you don't weigh anything, your a small bunch of cells. Well, let me paint a picture for you, flu. They run through the CVS Pharmacy yelling how much their mom weighs and singing the song from Madagascar 2, "I like 'em big, I like 'em chunky. I like 'em round, I like 'em plumpy!"

Oh, the horrors!

Flu, I thought we had an understanding but you have broken your end of the bargain. You have darkened my door and I have not enjoyed your visit.

I hate to do this but, in the only words of Christian Bale fit to print on a family-friendly blog: Flu, you and I are DONE professionally!

DONE.

Sincerely,
HoodMama

*

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Random.

Olivia, Sadie, and I are home sick this morning.

Ok, technically, Olivia is home sick. Sadie is playing nurse to her big sister with unlimited lemonade and Goldfish, and I am just praying no one else gets what she has.

I'm not being a pessimist but the odds are not in my favor. Sometimes, or all times, my kids use each others' toothbrushes.

I asked her if I could get her anything and she said she'd love a new Kooky Klicker.
I was kind of thinking more along the lines of Sprite or Saltine Crackers because I'm pretty sure Kooky Klickers have no medicinal purpose; unlike the amazing healing properties of Sprite.

Her comment also reminded me of yet another ridiculous children's collectable that I didn't think of first. Darnit!

Last week, Olivia went to see the King Tut exhibit at the Dallas Museum of Art. Then she came home and did this to Sadie.

Sadie was an incredibly good sport.

I like how her hat coordinates with her flip-flops even though flip-flops wouldn't necessarily work on a mummy because, you know, the whole 'toes being wrapped in gauze' thing.

This has absolutely nothing to do with Olivia being sick today, or Kooky Pens, or mummies for that matter...
...or does it?
Ya'll have a great day!

Monday, February 23, 2009

In the eyes of the beholder.

Last summer, when we were in Aspen, we went into an art gallery with the kids. They love going to art galleries but for some reason, the galleries don't necessarily love my children. Why? I'm not sure. Maybe it's because they're young and sometimes have the remnants of ice cream on their faces. Or it's because they sense the clumsiness that eminates from my pores and therefore must have been passed down to my children.

In one gallery, Olivia literally walked head-on into a sculpture priced at $325,000. The gallery manager followed closely behind us the rest of the time. Maybe she could tell we weren't carrying that much cash on us. I was wearing Crocs which is a dead giveaway.

Graham, kept dragging me around the gallery pointing out the still life, abstract, and pointilissm pieces. He was six.

Needless to say, the kids have a pretty terrific art teacher at school. They've brought home some beautiful things that I've hung all over the house.

Every once in a while, though, they come home with pieces that I'm honestly just not sure what to do with.

For example...

It's clearly an abstract, I mean, with the feathers and all. Graham loves it and wants to know where it will be placed in our home. I'm thinking Nanny's gonna need a homemade Mother's Day Gift this year. Problem solved.

And last year there was this one.

"Mom, it's a girl playing soccer! Can't you tell?"

Oh, totally. Totally.

I have tried to file it away in the trash several times but just can't bring myself to get rid of it. Instead, I dust it and keep it on a shelf. I mean, it has my baby girl's fingerprints all over it. She created something out of nothing just like the Lord does with us. And someday, when the veil is lifted, we will finally see the beautiful work of art He created all of us to be.

Just like this guy.
Or, maybe not.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Google, you know me so well.

Hannah posted this last night and when I read it, of course I had to try it.

You type your name into the google search bar with "needs" next to it (ie: "Melissa needs") and write down the first ten things that come up.

'Cause, really, I don't have anything else to do with my time.

1. Melissa needs to take a break.
I'm liking this already.

2. Melissa needs lots of guidance.
Who is this 'google' person anyway?

3. Melissa needs a home.
Unfortunately, with the looks of the economy, this could be prophetic.

4. Melissa needs to board the blob ship that is hovering overhead.
Huh?

5. Melissa needs hydration after the walk.
I just got back from a walk. How do it know?

6. Melissa needs a roof.
Um, ok, now I'm getting paranoid.

7. Melissa needs to find a new agent.
Because my current agent is doing a poor job? Really? Huh.

8. Melissa needs someone to show her she's worthy.
Worthy of what? A kick in the pants? Hmmm. I'm pretty sure I'm not worthy of anything more than that and yet Jesus' thoughts of me outnumber the grains of sand. It's true. All true.

9. Melissa needs to cowboy up.
Not sure exactly what that means. If I get to wear boots and a fun hat, I'm totally in.

10. Melissa needs a job.
With school tuition coming round the mountain, this one could, like number 3, be prophetic.

Anyway, go take a moment on this lazy Sunday and find out how well google knows you!
Have a great one!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

One man's trash...

About a year ago, I told you about a time that I collected a couch "with good bones" from the side of the road with the help of some painters on their lunch break.

It is unfortunately still in our garage waiting for the perfect fabric to come rescue it from storage purgatory.

It has also become a thorn in Trey's side. A big, three-cushioned thorn. With good bones.

I really don't make it a habit to dig in other people's trash but the other day, I just couldn't help myself. I saw something that I KNEW our family, our ministry, simply could not live without.

Our neighbor was the Pinkston High School Mascot. Apparently, from his trash, WAS is the operative word.

This was on his curb, waiting for the bulk trash truck to rob me of endless minutes of silliness.

I'm gonna be honest with you; it smells kinda bad.

But that hasn't stopped us from wearing it as often as possible around the house, playing Wii, driving in the car, cutting the grass, cooking dinner. Or just long enough for a picture or two before we have to take it off to shower and disinfect.

Tomorrow night is Darius' last basketball game of the regular season. Do you think it would embarrass him if MaMelissa showed up with a little more Viking Pride than usual?

It would be the closest I've ever been to being a cheerleader. And I'm not bitter about that at all.

At all.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Be my Cupcake, I mean Valentine.

Sometime back, before the first of the year, Hannah and Mindy asked me to help with a Valentines Lunch for the junior high girls in the ministry and their mentors. Of course! I'd love to help. Unless, of course, it involved making and decorating 150 cupcakes and speaking.

Oh, I'd have to do both? Uh, no thank you very much.

I think, at this point, I was hogtied and drugged. I don't remember. All I know is that we spent the good part of Friday baking and decorating cupcakes because Hannah is a food-snob and refused to serve cupcakes from Sam's.

I can say that because, 1. it's true, 2. she openly admits it, and 3. it's her birthday today. That one doesn't really have anything to do with anything but head on over and wish her a happy happy!

She wouldn't even let me use box cake mix. After I burned 48, and then made another 48 that tasted like cornbread muffins (go figure), I snuck to the store and bought yellow cake mix and whipped up another 48 faster than she could say, "Cake mix is for baking losers!"

They tasted awesome!

Here is my kitchen in process.

Notice the pans in the sink, the almonds for energy, and the wine glasses for, um, sanity.


We had a few helpers. Laura was a trooper. She's here from Ireland for six months and staying with Mindy and Garret. She has a really cool accent and calls jackets "jumpers". Sometimes, I like to pretend she's my Au Pair. Ok, not really, but she does love the heck out of these kids. The one she's holding is Jakeem. He calls her his girlfriend.

I'm honestly not sure who the other child is but he was here for a while Friday night and, from the look of the frosting all over his face, his job was the 'Official Sampler'.

These were more of our helpers. Just between you and me, I had them decorating the reject 'cornbread cupcakes' with canned frosting from the back of my pantry. Then, when they were finished, we had a "special tray" for their cupcakes.

Is that wrong? Maybe, but Hannah had me scared and she was watching.

I wasn't exaggerating about how many we made.

And garnished.

Tada.

And there was lots of yummy salad, too. You know, because everyone needs their roughage.

Great fellowship.

And a few of these cuties.

The mentors and young ladies had a great time celebrating and talking about who the Lord has created us to be as young women. From what was said, it is certainly much different from what the world tells us to be. That's right, I'm talking to you Kanye.

You can tell I was speaking while this picture was taken. The young lady is texting her friend at another table something like, "Gr8, how much longer is this woman gonna talk? She is wearin' me OUT!"

Here's Mindy. She and Hannah brung it!

It was an amazing time. We had some incredible volunteers who gave up their day of Valentine pedicures to help set up, serve food, and clean up. They made the event a smashing success.

And, thankfully, not one of the 'cornbread cupcakes' touched anyone's lips.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The things you do for love.

Saturday night, after the extra boys had gone home, I hit a wall of exhaustion I hadn't felt in a long time. I was drained and tired and all I wanted to do was go to sleep...on the trampoline.

What?

You mean, if you were dog tired, you'd want to crawl into your cozy bed with the down comforter and the Tempur-Pedic pillow and snuggle in for a good night's sleep?

Not me. No sir'ree. No how. No way.

My kids had been begging to sleep on the trampoline and, you know, since it's February, why wouldn't now be the perfect time of year?

Can we, can we, PLEASE?!?!?!

O.K. Fine.

Will you sleep out there with us, 'cause it's dark?

Baby, the police helicopter flies over about 10 times a night most Saturdays with it's spotlight on. You'll probably have enough light to read by.*

PRETTY PLEASE?

Children, you know you'd have plenty of warning if someone were to come in the backyard because the neighbors' many dogs bark at the slightest movement. All. Night. Long.*

PRETTY PLEASE with Milk Duds on top? My children totally know how to break me down.

At this point, Trey was faking some sort of fast-induced hearing loss.

Ok, seriously, how bad could it be? I weighed the pros.

1. I could legitimately go to bed at 8:30 even if the dishes weren't done.

2. I could still take my Tempur-Pedic pillow outside.

3. Our sleeping bags are supposed to keep you warm up to, like, 20 degrees below zero.

4. I could score major cool points with my children.

5. The little people are really funny when they feel like they're doing something crazy.


The cons I initially blocked out. Throughout the night, however, they came to me one by one.

1. Every time someone moves, everybody moves, and moves, and moves.

2. Our sleeping bags lied.

3. Sadie, even when sleeping rightnexttome, will still try to crawl into my sleeping bag in the middle of the night which will result in everyone bouncing, and waking up, and talking about how "totally awesome" this is.

4. There are a LOT of sirens in West Dallas on Saturday nights. Coupled with the screeching of some sweet twenty-fos.

5. The police helicopter does indeed fly over our neighborhood, with it's spotlight on, about every hour. It's like a giant coocoo-bird armed with semi-automatic weaponry.

6. Neighborhood dogs get confused when children and their mom sleep on the trampoline. They spend the night barking to each other trying to see if anyone can figure out what the heck is going on.

As you can see, the cons slowly but surely outnumbered the pros.

At about 4:30, Trey came out to check on us. We were all awake, cold, and ready to get in our own beds. Oh, wait, I'm sorry, what I meant was that everyone wanted to come sleep in my bed. And 'fnuggle.

I still earned major cool points. Totally worth it.

* Clarification: I did not actually say these things to my children. I promise.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Bittersweet.

Our four extra boys went home Saturday morning to their momma, granny, and Aunt Lulu. Each vacillated between feelings of excitement in seeing their momma again and sadness in having to leave.

I think the latter had a lot to do with the Wii and homemade chocolate chip cookies.

In an amazing example of the Lord's providence, last week, H. and I were at Target. It was the middle of the day and he had been suspended from school so we were out running errands with Sadie. As we were checking out, one of the checkers said something to Sadie about her red hair and H. said, "Mrs. Melissa, that lady is a friend of my momma's."

I introduced myself and she immediately recognized H. She had been friends with the kids' mom for a long time, knew of her recent hospitalization and wanted to help. She ended up calling me after she got off work, came by the house and spent several hours talking about the family's history and how she thought we could best help.

She is a great woman; strong and a little feisty so I immediately liked her. She says what she thinks and at one point said, "Melissa, you have to remember, you can't fix her, these kids, or this situation. She's going to live how she's going to live and all you can do is help where you are able and in ways you are led. You can't make her live like you do or think like you do."

Sigh.

She had only known me for a few hours and had nailed me. Of course I want to fix this. Of course I want to be able to give her and her kids tools, and love, and ideas for planning meals, organizing closets, and doing homework, then tie the whole family up with a nice little bow stamped with 'Good to Go'.

I really do know better. I know the gospel is lived out in relationship; in mutual relationship of respect and long-suffering. The fruits of the Spirit are not the abilities to give an effective and manageable to-do list but love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control. If I've forgotten one, blame it on the song. That's how I remember them.

I prayed this morning that the Lord would teach me how to love this family where they are, help how I can, and that He would build a relationship that can weather all kinds of circumstances, cultures, or decisions.

Three of the boys showed up at my house and the Smith's for breakfast and rides to school. They got hugs, bowls of cereal, and rides in warm cars. They gave us the joy of knowing the Lord is faithful and using us still.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

One step forward.

One of the little boys staying with us is nine and tough as nails. We'll call him H. He's been suspended for fighting at school a couple of times so far this year and was suspended again Friday for more of the same.

I've learned, in this ministry, my heart is drawn to just this kind of kid. They're the ones who have a great sense of humor, will actually talk to you and tell you how they're feeling but who have hair-trigger tempers and can go from zero to sixty faster than you can say, "SELF-CONTROLISAFRUITOFTHESPIRIT!!!". From what I've seen, they want desperately to be kids but circumstances have forced them to grow up fast, and their self-preservation trumps wisdom every time.

Sunday night, H. was picking pretty hard on his younger brother and Graham had enough. Graham is sweet as buttermilk pie but scrappy and defended the cause of the weak. He tackled this boy who is three years older than him and bigger and H. proceeded to flip him over and start to beat the tar out of my baby.

Both were hysterical but, in the process of calming H. down, I saw something I didn't expect. He was crying uncontrollably and he kept saying, "I want my mommy!"

Of course he did. It killed me. He's just a baby. It was as if he'd gotten away from himself. As if he didn't want to hit Graham. As though he knew Graham was sticking up for his brother like he should have been doing but defending himself superceeded doing the right thing.

After some cooling off at Mindy and Garrett's, we had a long talk and apologies and forgiveness offered from both boys.

A day later, before Graham was going to bed, H. drew this picture and put it on Graham's pillow.


It says, I'm sorry and Best Friends.

In return, Graham wrote F.R.I.E.N.D.S in Bendaroos on a book and put it on H.'s pillow.

Both boys' countenance was utterly changed with the freedom reconciliation gave. Both saw humility dissolve anger like a consuming fire.

Monday, I asked H. if he thought we should go 'clear the air' with the boy he'd fought with on Friday resulting in his suspension. They have grown up together in the neighborhood and had always been friends. Didn't he think it was worth talking through. He said he did and when could we go. He asked several times a day for two days then, yesterday, Trey took him over.

Both boys apologized, shook hands, and did what neither have seen modeled for them by the men in their lives. They each took responsibility and righted a wrong.

Today, H. was back in school. Hoping he didn't have any more altercations, I asked him how his day was. He said it was o.k.

Just o.k.? When pressed, he said he didn't like what they served for lunch.

It made him fart.

Baby steps, people. Baby steps.

*

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

There was an old woman...

...who lived in a shoe. She had so many children, she fantasized about housekeepers and a laundress.

Laundress; is that such a thing or am I making that up. Laundrywoman, or man - in my fantasies, I'm not even a little picky. I just want the laundry done without me actually having to enter my laundry room. I do like cleaning out the lint thing though. It's unusually satisfying.

Now, just imagine what it would look like if we added four more children to the mix.

What the...?

We have a beautiful momma in the neighborhood who has five children and, a month ago, had twin boys. Seven children under 13 including twin babies, public housing, no car, no family in town, no church, no daddies; life would be almost impossible for anyone, even with lots of resources.

A couple of the guys from the ministry have been helping with the boys, helping her try to find a job, etc. but, since the birth of the babies, she quickly declined. We'd been taking meals and offering help but she wanted to be able to do it all, even in the midst of incredibly tough circumstances.

Friday, she had a nervous breakdown which left seven children with no place to go. Thankfully, she has a great friend across the street who took the month-old babies and the oldest daughter, and the four boys came here. Let's do that mental math together; 6 chil'ren + 4 chil'ren = 4 chil'ren. Ok, my math isn't great but it helps me live in denile about how many people are living under our roof.

I can't even close the door to my laundry room and my washing machine has started asking for health coverage and stock options.

Seriously, we have spent the past five days overwhelmed by the provision of the Lord through his people. Families from across the city have stepped in to offer help and it has been incredible. A friend unloaded a Suburban full of necessities, and when I told her it was more than excessive, she replied, "My husband shows love by going to Sam's Club. He's loving ya'll alot."

Ok, admittedly, a tiny part of me wondered if he could show his love with Nordstrom Spa gift certificates.

It's so wrong, I know. I know.

What's been really a blessing to get to see is the way Dea and Darius have loved these boys. Darius came with me once last week, before all of this happened, when we were taking the family dinner and when we left, he said, "MaMelissa, I know how hard it is. I have been there".

The oldest boy is twelve and totally looks up to Dea and Darius who have given him shoes, clothes, and pep talks that have made Trey and I so proud. They've played with the little kids, helped corral them, and at times, even corrected them for fighting or being disrespectful.

Tee, Olivia, Graham, and Sadie have welcomed these boys with Wii remotes, bubble gum, and turns on the Ripstick.

I could have sworn our Ripstick was broken was but, in fact, it was just me. I'm very uncoordinated.

The situation is temporary; until their mom can get out of the hospital and back on her feet. Their Granny and Auntie came in this morning so the boys may go home as soon as this weekend.

Needless to say, I've had enough things to write about to fill a book, but absolutely no time.

Thank you, Lord, for giving us the opportunity to participate in your work in caring for the fatherless and those in distress in this community. And thank you that your people respond to need in ways beyond comprehension.