Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Brave.

Tee hopped in the car yesterday afternoon a little down in the mouth.  It's taken me years to figure out that saying means frowning.  I'm not exactly quick on the up-take.

Some friends had been giving him a hard time and he was upset.  When I asked what his friends had been saying, he said they had made fun of him because he wouldn't ride a roller coaster.

"Mama, they said I was a chicken."

I thought about my boy, about the fact he doesn't ride roller-coasters, is not a fan of heights, and can shed a tear or 75 when he gets knocked around on the football field, baseball field, or a good ol' fashioned Monopoly game.

Then I thought of what really makes him brave.

"Tee, you are surrounded constantly by kids who've grown up a lot differently than you.  They don't look like you, talk like you, or even play the way you do and you handle it great.  You have a kid living in your house right now, sharing your room, your clothes, your Wii, your Mom and Dad, and even once gave your brother a black eye but you've seen what his home was like and extended an incredible amount of grace and mercy to him.  Even if he's not loving you back.  Even if he might steal from your piggy bank.  Again.  You're loving on his little brothers not because you especially love babies but you understand they are your neighbors and God tells us to love them.  You, son, are brave.  You're brave in the big things, the things that matter, the things that are hard and build a lifetime of character."

Lots of people ask about how my kids handle living where we live, dealing with what we deal with on a daily basis. 

I think they are amazing, gracious, funny, and sometimes fearless.

Olivia was with me when we got the call about the kids last Thursday.  She'd had a fever virus but NOT THE SWINE FLU, DEFINITELY NOT THE SWINE FLU - and we had just finished lunch.  We drove over to the apartment which was surrounded by police cars and a fire truck.  The police had kicked the door in, retrieved the children and had their mother in handcuffs.  The kids were sitting in the back of a police car and obviously scared.  I told Olivia to go sit in the car with them and talk with them which she did happily.  She told jokes, talked about our dog, and Slurpees, and Wii Sports.  She was a little ray of sunshine for them that day and kept telling them she hoped they could come live with us.

After the drama had quieted, I pulled her aside to talk with her and thank her for being amazing.

"Baby, you saw a lot of stuff today, are you ok?  Do you have any questions for me or anything you want to talk about."

"No, Momma but you have food in your teeth.  There.  And there."

Our kids are are learning to put on the full armor of God daily and to do it with joy.  They are learning that life isn't pretty or perfect and can be full of heartache.  But they're seeing the Lord provide for them, use their individual giftings for His glory, and that His strength is made perfect in weakness.

And they are brave, roller coasters or not.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Diet Coke, please.

Woke up this morning to a blessedly quiet house in spite of the fact that three more have joined us since yesterday.

Last spring, we kept four boys from a family of seven children who's mother had been in the hospital.

Yesterday afternoon, surrounded by police cars, school officials, and the fire department, the children were removed from the home.

Mercy Street has been given temporary custody of the children and they are now staying with various staff who live in the community.

We have the little 10 year old boy and his twin nine month old brothers. Thankfully, everyone slept through the night last night and we're ready to start our day rested.

Last night, a friend brought us dinner. I have been helping with Vision Life at Mercy Street on Thursdays and this sweet friend wanted to take one thing off my plate. Providentially, she made the biggest daggum meal you've ever seen and fed our family, another Mercy Street staff family, Hannah, Brett, and the new children. She thought she was preparing food for our family alone and instead, the Lord used her to feed 18 people who had been through an incredibly hectic, emotional, trying day.

Why these kinds of small miracles still surprise me, I don't know.

In light of this, and other things that have made this a rough week, we covet your prayers for these kids, for Mercy Street and the families who will wake up this morning with children they did not have yesterday.

Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The one where I lose my cred. Yo.

Sometimes, in the face of adversity, one has to make choices.

Mothers, through years of first hand experience, learn to make those choices count with as little pain as possible.

In addition, we know that even the best laid plans must sometimes be set aside as obstacles prevent us from moving forward.

Tee's plan was to grow his hair out and celebrate it in all it's shaggy, moppy, glory.



Unfortunately, he got lice and his beautifully thick head of hair went from being an asset to a liability almost overnight.

So, in the face of adversity and with all the authority vested in me as the Momma, called an audible.

"Tee, you gotta get a buzz cut for me."

"Not a chance."

"Please?!!  You're hair is so thick it's taking me forever each day to go through it.""

"No way."

"But, buddy, if we miss ANYTHING, you'll have the lice re-appear and you'll have to miss school again."

"That's O.K., Mom."

"No, no wait.  You need to cut your hair!  (with the enthusiasm only a girl who's never been a cheerleader can muster) It's gonna look great!  Fabulous!  Handsome!  Better than ever!"

"Seriously?  Never."

"I'll give you $35."

"Done."



Posted by Picasa
Now, I realize that, in one fail swoop, I may have lost all credibility with you as a parent.

Tonight, though, as I comb through his beautifully - short hair in a fraction of the time, I believe I'll be o.k. with it.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The almost vacation.

For a year, Trey and I have been planning to attend a conference together in Scottsdale, AZ.  He was asked to present and I was asked to do, well, nothing but was so excited to sit beside him, alone on an airplane, for the first time in a really, really long time.  It was going to be a short trip.  Two nights, and one was going to be spent with my dad and step-mom who live there. 

I spent weeks figuring out where the kids would go, who would take them to their practices, pick them up, and let them sleep over.  They were excited about getting "two sleepovers in a row" and kept asking 'just how late could they stay up at night'.

The trip was this weekend and we were scheduled to leave bright and early Friday morning.  I was packing the kids when Olivia frantically scratched her head.

"Baby, does your head itch that bad?"

"YES!  It's driving me crazy!  It's been like this all day!"

Calmly, I laid her across my lap and started looking at her scalp to see if I could find the problem.  Within minutes, I had my answer.  She and Tee both had lice.  LICE!

Are you freakin' kidding me?!?!?!

So instead of going to Scottsdale with Trey, I spent the weekend combing nits, lice, and eggs out of my childrens' hair for hours and hours.  And hours.  Our sheets, carpets, and couches have never been cleaner and our house smells like a peppermint stick factory exploded.

For reasons I don't know, I wasn't supposed to see Trey this weekend, or my dad, or hear the "you're free to move about the cabin" call from the flight attendant.  But I know the Lord knows and that this is part of a story he is telling that is bigger and more glorious than I could ever imagine.

Saturday night, I did run over to a wedding at Mercy Street.  It was the most beautiful celebration I had ever seen and the Lord used the words spoken to this couple to feed the river in my heart for my husband.

Pointing to the bride and groom, standing shoulder to shoulder, the pastor said, "This is first. Above all else; adventures, ministry, jobs, friends, this relationship is first because it is Christ." I don't think I'd ever really heard it put quite that way before and it sang to me.

We are to be warriors for one another in whatever ways we are called.  This weekend, my call was to help get our children healthy while his was to share Mercy Street with men and women who wanted to be used by the Lord to reach the poor and marginalized.  His call was also to partake in the Beef Bourguignon my stepmother prepared for our visit but that's not important right now. 

Our calls are different but complimentary and still, sometimes can feel lame, insignificant, and downright oogie.  I do know, though, that walking alongside him in this journey is a gift in itself and in all the craziness, unexpected suprises, dissappointments, and celebrations, if we look very close, we see the Lord's hand prints on it all.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A big bunch of not so much goin' on.

Well, once again, I woke up to a completely annoying song on the radio that will now be stuck in my head all day.
I would tell you the song but then it would be stuck in your head all day, too and I just like you too much to do that to you.

"All..."

See, I almost told you anyway but then I stopped myself. Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit.

What's also annoying is my dog when it rains for four mornings in a row and she can't go for a walk with the mama. The rain made for a very relaxing weekend except for Scout who followed me around with her ball in her mouth.

The weekend was so relaxing, it also apparently left me with nothing to talk about but my dog.


She's not cute, though, especially when she's workin' the whole alien-glow-in-the-dark-eyes thing. In person, it's really not creepy at all until she uses her mind control to make you fry her some chicken. Or let her get up on the furniture and take a nap while she's waiting for me to get off my Blackberry and take her for a stinkin' walk already.

On another note, we have no computer this week. Or phone. No computer or phone makes for a mama who instead talks the ears off of her dog and the ATT Customer Service Representative while the children are at school.

It also leaves me without the ability to respond to all your great comments on my last post so please forgive me.

Forgive me or I'll let Scout come over to your house and MAKE you forgive me. She'll also make you whip her up a nice grilled cheese sandwich and you don't want that, do you?

She's very picky.  And she is not practicing the fruits of the Spirit.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The boy and the dragon.

So there's this guy.

He's been hanging around West Dallas as long as we have - clearly an addict. He panhandles on the same corners, gets high in the same traps, and sleeps wherever the drugs lead him. Wherever they leave him.

Several of the Mercy Street staff have had encounters with him -given him rides, paid him for pumping gas, shook his hand, looked him in the eye.

The kids and I see him a lot on our way home from school and started praying for him every day. We didn't know his name so we called him the West Dallas White Guy because, well, that pretty much summed it up.

He has sandy blonde hair, sky-blue eyes, and, I discovered yesterday, looks directly at you when he's speaking. I bought him a drink at the nearby Taco Bell where he was hanging out and asked his name. It's Eric.

He's been on the streets of West Dallas for six years. His family lives in Irving and he got his G.E.D. in prison. He's 22.

I asked him if he wanted to get clean and he was painfully honest in his reply.

"No, ma'am, I don't."

"What are you on?"

"Heroin, ma'am."

"Eric, it's gonna kill you."

"Yes, ma'am."

Later, I was talking to one of the guys on staff who runs into him fairly often. He's had the same conversation with Eric but got a longer explanation than I did in the parking lot. Eric said, "I know this will kill me, but the people who know me, my friends, will say I died doing what I loved. I love it."

And I'm pretty sure he knows it doesn't love him back.

His honesty was the opposite of what I expected. He wasn't trying to manipulate me or tell me what I wanted to hear. And he's answered these questions before.

He's been beaten up pretty bad sometime over the last week and is now running with another guy who was so high the last time I saw him he was on all fours licking the sidewalk. I asked Eric about his friend, the other white guy I see him with.

"No, ma'am, that's not my friend. That's my brother."

Trey explained to me that heroin is so, so addictive because the high you get the first time almost impossible to recreate. You want that high so badly you just take more of the drug until, eventually, it kills you. It's what they call 'chasing the dragon'.

I look at this kid, chasing the dragon, loving a drug that is killing him, and see he might have once been a little toe-headed kid swinging in the backyard. He might have played on the baseball team, and his momma might have gotten that lump in her throat when her boy, both of her boys, started Kindergarten. He might have liked grilled cheese sandwiches with the crusts cut off, been scared of the dark, and asked, in June, how many days until Christmas. They might have wrestled too hard, shouted too loud, played too rough. They might have gone through a box of band-aids a week like we do.

Perhaps that wasn't their experience at all. Perhaps it was more of the nightmare variety that we cringe at, turn our faces from, change the channel.

We're still praying for him, only now by name - and now for both he and his brother.

And praying that the words of David Crowder might cut through the nightmare they're in and defeat the dragon once and for all.

"He is jealous for me.
Love's like a hurricane, I am a tree.
Bending beneath the weight of his wind and mercy."

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Brace Face. Times two.

When I was in fourth grade at Brill Elementary, Go Broncos!, my parents decided it was high time I had some proper dental alignment.

My teeth, they were not pretty. Extreme measures were taken. Headgear was worn. Retainers maintained.

And all was right with my teeth, until Christmas break, 1991. It was my sophomore year in college and time, I believed, to have my permanent retainer removed. I guess I thought this because I was an orthodonist?

Um, no. But somehow I persuaded my orthodontist to take it out. I begged and pleaded and possibly argued. I mean, after nine years, my teeth certainly weren't going to move, right?

Riiiight.

About an hour after I'd left his office and hit the road back to glorious College Station, my bottom teeth moved just enough to be slightly crooked...or hideously jacked up, depending on whether you're asking an untrained layman or the orthodontist who happens to be my brother-in-law.

Last summer, after years of having to look at my crooked bottom teeth, Moody sat me down in the "Rainbow Room" at his office and slapped braces on me quicker than I could whine, "but how am I supposed to eat Milk Duds, now!?!"

He may have called me a lightweight under his breath, I'm not sure.

Anyway, last week, Uncle Moody so sweetly put braces on Tee and Olivia.

This was the before picture.

The kids didn't go to school that day and could have slept in a little but they were up at the crack of dawn with their Dr.s Alexander T-shirts on ready to go.

It was like Christmas in August.

Well, almost.


Moody is treating them in phases and I'm convinced it's partially because, if we waited much longer, my kids would have never let me take pictures like these.

If there's a Walt Disney of Orthodontia, Dr. Moody is it.

They were having so much fun, I kept waiting for animals and fairies to come out dancing and singing.

Olivia was just hoping Cody Linley might come in dancing and singing. He's also a patient of Dr. Moody which scores way-big points for him in the uncle department.

I think she's simply appreciative of his proper occlusion.

That one was for you Uncle Moody.



And yes, I'm still wearing my retainer.

Yes, every night.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Mississippi Sin. Stretchy pants recommended.

When Trey and I first got married, we moved to Nashville and made some pretty amazing friends.

One of the couples had two precious little girls about 9.5 months apart and their house kind of became home base for the rest of us newlyweds without children. Now that I have a daggum gaggle of children, I will forever lament the fact that we were too busy sleeping late and going to movies whenever we wanted to watch their girls and give them a break more often. Sigh.

I wasn't doing a whole lot of cooking back then because, honestly, it was just plain easier to eat out when it was just the two of us but Ali, she could work magic in her kitchen.

One of Trey's favorite things she made was a dip called Mississippi Sin. The name alone says it all. I'm pretty sure that's why our kids are so close together - Trey thought that if I would have a bunch of little kids like Ali, I would become a lover of cooking, too.

Unfortunately for Trey, I also became a horrible housekeeper and I sometimes forget where I parked the car.

For now, let's focus on the positive, shall we?

Today, BooMama is having a little shindig over at her blog and in honor of Trey and Ali and all the momma's with little kids running around thereby forcing them to stay home and cook instead of going out, I'm bringing a little Mississippi Sin.

Mississippi Sin.

2 cups shredded mild Cheddar cheese
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 cups sour cream
1/2 cup cooked diced ham
1 can chopped green chiles
1/3 cup chopped green onions
1/8 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
Fritos - don't even think of trying something else. I mean it.

In a medium bowl, combine Cheddar and cream cheese, sour cream, ham, chile peppers, chopped green onions, and Worcester sauce. Mix to blend well. Bake in small casserole dish or, if you're feeling racy, hollow out a round crusty loaf of bread and bake it in there. 350 for 1 hour.

Makes about 4 cups of dip.

Put on your favorite stretchy pants and enjoy!


Thursday, September 3, 2009

She'll also tell me when I have food in my teeth.

The other day, I wrote about our trip to the water park with the kids from Mercy Street.

And my wedgie. Transparency is almost my middle name. Except for the fact that I'm not going to tell you my middle name because what's a relationship without a little mystery.

I also mentioned that Tee was all down in the mouth because he couldn't beat me down one of the slides and how I explained to him why it was impossible.

Remember?

"Son, let me help you understand. It's not a question of skill, but of weight. If you drop a pot-bellied pig and a grasshopper at the same time, the pig's just gonna hit the pavement faster. It's a matter of physics."

And, last night, my friend Madelyn, who is both funny and smart, called after reading this post - apparently also a believer in seizing the teachable moment...

"Um, yeah, read your post about the water park. Now, you know the pot-bellied pig and the grasshopper would fall at the same rate because blah, blah, blah physics. They would make impact with different force but their rate of fall would be the same. Why Tee wouldn't be able to beat you is on account of you having greater body surface and friction. Fool."

She didn't really call me a fool, I added that for effect. She may have said "Bless your heart" though, I'm not sure.

She was laughing the whole time and I'm pretty sure also making a note to herself: When Covenant is raising money for it's scholarship fund, that post might be a handy tool.

With a tag line, of course - "For the love of education, PLEASE give generously so that the Hill children don't have to be homeschooled by their momma."

Anything I can do to help.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

How to win friends and influence people. In Kindergarten.

Day 2.

Ok, I promise I'm not going to give you the blow by blow of Sadie's exploits in Kindergarten. By day 154, I should have exhausted my desire to remember every detail as explained to me by my spunky five year old.

Or her teacher. We're going to call her Mrs. Barth - because that's her name. I love it because Sadie still can't say her S's so it hides her lisp perfectly.

Anyone know a good speech therapist?

After her first official afternoon as a Kindergartner, I got an email...

Dear Mrs. Hill

I just want you to know that on this first day of school I have saved you from a giant flying cockroach :-) We had one in class today and after it flew through the air, landed on a student and chaos ensued -- I heard a sweet happy voice exclaim "Oh it's a cockroach !! Can I have it?? My mom is so afraid of cockroaches! Can I take it home and scare her?? " Love that Sadie girl!! I cant wait until next Tuesday!!

Love,

Mrs. Barth

I'm sorry, she must have gotten my daughter confused with a slightly sadistic five year old who would get her kicks from scaring the bejeebies out of her momma.

Not my baby.

Today, I got this email...

Hey Melissa!

Did Sadie tell you she was a little sad at school today? After listening to Chopin’s “Raindrop Prelude” (its a little melancholy) she was so sad that she wanted her mama and couldn’t draw a picture.

Now that's more like the angel I know and love.

She recovered well for the puppet center and Math but was definitely ready to come home. She is so sweet and is doing well in class! You know it takes a while to build up some stamina for those long days. Just so you know.


Oh yeah – when I told the class that Senora Adams would be coming to teach Spanish today Sadie said she already knew some Spanish but they were bad words – I asked her not to say them. :)


Gulp.

It explains why my fourth could be the child I would have never let my first born play with.

For the record, the "bad word" she knows is 'callete'. It means shut-up in Spanish. She learned it from Tee who undoubtedly learned it from some fourth child.

And that, my friends, is the circle. The circle of potty-language.