Thursday, October 29, 2009

Hello blog my old friend.

So, I'd love to give you a long detailed post explaining my absence from the blog world for the past week. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately, depending how you look at it), I don't have the energy. We've had a rough week and I will just say that, if long periods between posts prompts you to pray for the ministry, that would be great.

On another note, I can't think of many other things I'd rather be doing with my day without any children at home than sitting in a courtroom waiting for the judge to call my name and reprimand me for being in a hurry.

Lucky for me, that's just what I'm doing.

Like this guy's never been in a hurry. I can tell just by looking at him that he's not the punctual type. I can see it in his eyes.

As a matter of fact, I've been sitting on this hard bench for about an hour and a half and no one has even been called on the docket.

What I've decided is that without speeders, the whole world would come to a screeching halt and NOTHING would get done.

I mean, except for school zones. Speeding there is wrong.

Sitting here, though, I'm sandwiched between two lovely women who, it turns out, live in my hood. One just got a home through Builders of Hope, and the other is looking for a way to own a home in West Dallas.

I love how the Lord works.

I also love that I have two new friends, Becca and Adam http://thestanleyclan.blogspot.com/, sitting at my house right now just waiting to see the ministry. While I'm in court. I'm sure they're totally impressed so far.

My children, on the other hand, are totally enamored. Graham wanted to take the to show and tell. He thinks they're "magical".

Maybe I should have brought them to court with me.

Do you think it would have helped?
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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Evidence of effect.

I'm a people watcher. One of my favorite things about traveling, other than sitting on an airplane for two hours reading a book without interruption, is the vast array of subjects I get to observe in the airport.

As we were sitting at our gate yesterday, waiting for our plane that would take us to the CCDA Conference in Cincinnati, I made an admission to the other Mercy Street staff that are traveling with us...

You know those MBT shoes, the ones that are supposed to tone your legs and rear while you wear them? Well, whenever I see someone wearing them, I automatically look from their shoes to their butt to see if the shoes are working. I can't help it. It's one reason why I wouldn't get any-people might have the same automatic response I do and honestly, I have more to worry about in my day than whether or not people are looking at my backyard for evidence of a shoe's effectiveness all day long.

Plus, they're like $200, and they don't sell them at Target but that's not important right now.

Trey was REAL proud I shared this with everyone.

Anyway, this morning, Dr. John Perkins was speaking to us about the call of the gospel in our lives and I couldn't help but think about the shoes. I'm fairly sure this is the first time the gospel has been compared to shoes that tone your butt but, stay with me. There is evidence of it's effectiveness in the way we live. And people look. They can't help themselves. It's automatic.

1 John says that, if we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus cleanses us from sin.

The primary evidence of this Truth to the world is our relationships with EACH OTHER and we're kidding ourselves if we think people are going to embrace Christianity if they
don't see it radically changing the lives of Christians in the way we relate to one another - the way we live, the way we worship, and who we're living and worshiping with.

Without evidence, no one's buying. I'm so convicted because, although I can choose to not wear the shoes, to not buy them because people might look for evidence, I can't choose whether or not to wear Jesus. I lost that option when He, in His infinite mercy, executed a rescue mission in my life.

The battle I have, we all have, then is not attempting to earn what has been given or working it out on our own. The battle is instead denying everything the world tells us is justifiable and being authentic ambassadors of His gospel with EACH OTHER so that, when people see me - see us - they see the effectiveness of the rescue and the infinite, radical, irrevocable hope it brings.
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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Instructions for Nanny.

Nanny,

The countdown has officially begun and in just a few short hours, the complete and total care of our six children will be in your and Bunty's hands while Trey and I are frolicking on a secluded beach somewhere close to the equator with fruity drinks in our hands.  Or at a conference in Ohio.  Same difference - at least that's what I keep telling myself.

While we're gone, I thought you might like some instruction as to the routine of our children.  Basically, you know it already but who doesn't like a little point of reference.  Kind of an 'In Case of Emergency Break Glass' kind of thing.

1.  I have taken the liberty of laying out clothes and uniforms for each of the children for the next five days.  I do this, not because my children are incapable of picking out their own clothes, but because Sadie has developed a little quirk where she finds the ugliest, most uncoordinated pieces of clothing in her closet and puts them on together.  With boots.

If I only picked out her clothes, she would know somethings up and rebel against you, against me, and against the fashion world as we know it.

2. The school bus (your car) should leave promptly at 7:30 in the morning to, a. get the kids to school on time, and b. not have Graham's head pop off.

He likes himself some routine.

3. You know about carpool pick-up.  And for the love of Pete, don't talk on your cellphone in carpool line.  If caught, well, I don't even want to think about what could happen but I will say it involves public humiliation and flogging.

4. I didn't actually have time to go to the grocery store before we left so there's some Ramen and Frosted Flakes in the pantry.  It should get you through the first four days.

5. Dea and Darius may have a friend (or 16) over.  You will be amazed at the number of 6'1" basketball players that can fit into their room.  Or how much they can eat.

And, although they appear to be permanent fixtures, Bull and Sebastian both have homes to which they can go.  You may have to point them in the general direction, but they do have homes.  Actually, Bull's is the one with the bullet hole through the front window where someone missed the car they were firing at last night.  On second thought, maybe he should just stay here.

6. The wet spot on the carpet was not Scout.  It was a Diet Coke debacle.

7. As much as the kids pester and beg, you are under no obligation to take them in the middle of the night to toilet paper any of their friends' houses.

8. The children are lice free.  There is a small arsenal of lice paraphanalia in the master bathroom if you should need it or if anyone you know should need it.

In case of lice outbreak (highly unlikely), our cell phones will automatically shut off.  Please call Carey or Renea.  They are both experts.

9. In case of Swine Flu outbreak, please refer to #8.

10. Sadie has a birthday party at 2:00 on Saturday.  She does not have to dress up as dress-up clothes will thankfully be provided.  (See #1) She also does not have a gift but Layne understands that she will be getting a far better and fancier gift from Ohio upon our return.  Or, if I forget, Target.  It's o.k.  She can't read.

Graham also has a birthday party on Saturday.  He also does not have a gift to take.  I will get one when I get home and it will be FABULOUS.  Zachary can read.

11. Apparently, don't overload the washing machine.  It will turn on you.

12. Yes, my car always smells like that.

13. So does Olivia's closet.

14. The animals need to be fed.  The kids are responsible for that - they know what to do.  If they forget, Scout will follow you around, as an ambassador for the rest of the animals, and bug the fire out of you until you feed her.

15. Trash day is Thursday. It's Tee's job.  If he argues or whines, start reducing his allowance in $.50 increments.  It's fast and effective.

16.  That noise is gunfire.

17. That noise is a rooster.

18. If you hear #17 quickly followed by #16, and then don't hear #17 anymore, the neighborhood has officially gone to hell in a handbasket.  Pack your things and get the heck outta dodge.

Have fun!!!  Thank you!!!!

Monday, October 19, 2009

The horse picture.

Tonight, after a long day of no school, carving pumpkins, playing outside, playing inside, and general ruckus-making, the kids had settled down, bathed, and gotten ready for bed.  I walked into the kitchen to find Sadie, in her flowered nightgown, wet hair, and brushed teeth sitting with Dea drawing a picture.

As long as we've known him, Dea has loved to draw.  He'll draw anything and everything but, honestly, doesn't talk a whole lot about it.

Tonight, as I cleaned the kitchen, swept the floor and folded laundry, I overheard him talking with Sadie about the picture she was busy creating.

"Dea, can you draw me a horse?"

"Sadie, YOU can draw a horse, just imagine what it looks like.  Does it have a long neck or a short one?  How long is it's mane?"

"My horse has a long neck and a long mane."

"Then draw what you're imagining...that's great, now how does a horse look?  Does his body go down straight like ours or sideways?"

"Sidewords."

"That's right.  Now, if the mane is long, it will cover up some of the body so you have to start drawing it here, instead of here.  See?"

"Oh, yeah!"

"Now, is your horse just on a piece of paper or is it somewhere like a street, or a field, or going up a hill to get something to eat at McDonald's?"

"Up a hill to go to McDonald's."

"Great, then draw that.  Just like you are imagining it."

He sat with her for probably thirty minutes.  Every once in a while he'd answer a text but otherwise, he was listening to her talk and laugh, and then she'd toot and they'd both laugh.  He didn't get impatient with her, tell her he had other things he had to do, or take the pencil from her and draw it for her - draw it better.  He just answered her questions, asked her what she was thinking about her horse, and encouraged her to put it on paper.

She's a spunky, sweet, red-headed, five year old and he's a black, eighteen year old boy from the hood.  Two years ago, they were strangers.  Today, their brother and sister.

We get told all the time that we're giving Dea and Darius a chance they might not have otherwise had.  What we realize all the time, though - especially in moments like this - is that they are the part of our family that we didn't know was missing until they landed on our door.  They found us, and blessed us, and they're giving us a chance we might not have had without them.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Same Cloth.

Tee has been saving his allowance for quite some time now and has saved up a nice little pile-o-cash.  He and Trey went to Game Stop the other day and Trey bought a new Wii game with the assurance that Tee would pay him back.

When they got home, the game didn't work.  They promptly took the game back and exchanged it for another, still, nothing.  All our other games worked fine so we knew it had to be something with these discs.  Or is it disks?  Who cares.

The witching hour had begun and Trey could not make yet another trip to Game Stop that night so Tee went to bed without a game but not without his thinking cap.

The next morning he happily announced that, upon the return of this game, he would have almost $100.  Skeptical, I asked him to explain.  "Well, we'll return the game and when they give me the money back, I'll add it to what I have and it will equal almost $100!"

"But, Tee, aren't you supposed to pay Daddy for the game?"

"Yeah, but we're returning it, so I don't have to pay him.  OOOHH, Baby, 100 George Washington's!  "

"Um, Tee, when you return the game, YOU won't get the money, sweetheart, DADDY will get the money."

"Oh.  That stinks."

Trey and I laughed and laughed at his errant math and joked about from who's gene pool that came from.

This afternoon, our question was answered.

While Trey was watching what I thought was the longest Texas/OU matchup in the history of football but was really just the second game in the College Football Marathon that has become our Saturday, I was catching up on a little laundry.  That is an understatement thereby proving that I don't embellish everything.

Someone may have overloaded the washer and suddenly there was a funny burning smell coming from the laundry room.  For sure, our beloved washer was no more.  It wouldn't spin or drain or make the familiar 'whoosh whoosh' sound that keeps our house clean and smelling fresh.  I paused for a quick moment of silence and then jumped on the computer to see what kind of washer paradise I could find at Sears.

It was paradise indeed but just as I was grabbing my keys and handbag, cause I felt a little like my mom and that's what she would have called it, and running out the door to Sears to get the pick of the litter, Trey got our washer to work.

"DARNIT!!  I mean, great job, Honey!  Whew!  What a RELIEF!"

Minutes later, sitting on the couch watching Tech beat the tar out of Nebraska, I had a thought.  "Sweetie, it sure is great that we didn't have to spend all that money on a new washer today, isn't it?"

"Yeah, baby, PICKED OFF!!!!!!!  THAT HURTS!!"  'Cause he was still into the game and all.

Banking on him being distracted, I made my move.  "So, anyway, since we didn't have to spend that money today, it's almost like we made a little so I think I might go out and get me some new boots, o.k.?"

With the clicker that has become an appendage, he paused the game, looked at me, then at Tee, and then pointed to both of us and, with two words, drew his final conclusion regarding which gene pool Tee got his math skills.

"Same cloth."

Unpause.

Happy Saturday!  From the girl without new boots.

*

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Somewhere in this post, you'll find an Ace you can keep.

I read one day that, to keep his fit physique, Will Smith doesn't eat ANY carbs after, like, 4 p.m.

Obviously, he, Jada, Trey, and I are not watching the same television shows late at night - a fact I somehow already knew. 

Just watching Top Chef makes me hungry and nothing goes better with a nice glass of chilled Pinot Grigio than a bag of Hot Cheetos.  All the finest someliers will confirm this.  Just (don't) ask one.

All this to say, another new show I'm loving is Cake Boss on TLC.  It's given me more than just an evening waiting with bated breath for Buddy's head to pop off when someone drops a perfectly decorated cake.  It's given me inspiration just waiting for the chance to express itself.

Well, friends, that opportunity came just this week when Olivia announced her Earth project was due and she wanted to make her 3D model out of cake.

I was elated.

"This is my project and I want to do it all by myself, Mom.  O.K.?"

"Sure, whatever, where's the sugar, eggs, and Kitchenaid?  Step aside and prepare to be amazed, Buddy, I mean, Olivia."

"MOM.  I'm serious.  I have to do this by myself."

I realized by her expression, and the use of her entire body to block the flour canister, that this project was not going to be one that I got to snatch out of her hands, do the entire thing, and simply put her name on it like someone (Trey) did in the past with Tee's Charlotte's Web Diorama with the removable roof and working swing.

Olivia was standing her ground in an apron and knee socks.


She did allow me to pull the cake out of the oven because she didn't want to 'burn her face off'.  And to frost the entire globe with a "crumb layer".  That would be the thin layer of icing used to catch all the crumbs so that when you put the final layer on, it's not all full of crumbs, and gunk, and mess.


 What I learned later from a friend/fancy-pants-baker-extraordinaire, Mrs. Rosa (I have her phone number), who makes the stinkin' best cakes/cupcakes/deliciousness in Dallas, was that if you FREEZE the cake once you bake it, and then frost it almost still frozen, you won't have any crumbs.  Genius.  A little late, but genius.  And that, my friends, is the 'take away' from this post you've been waiting for.


Olivia finished her cake this morning, after Trey spent 45 minutes last night sorting M&M's for her.  It looked great and she was proud as a peacock.  It was a win/win because I now have a giant bowl of blue, green, and brown M&M's that may not have made the cake but go great with coffee.





I think Buddy Valastro would approve.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Back to life...

After speaking with CPS Thursday night, when our case worker came to take the babies to their grandmother, I asked if Hakeem could please stay the weekend with us. 

Of all the kids, he can be the toughest as he battles what he's come to refer to as his 'anger problem'.  In spite of his temper, our kids, especially our boys, had loved having him with us and were sad to see him go.  CPS agreed to let him stay the weekend, calling it an 'extended sleepover'.

It was homecoming weekend for our youngest four so we spent the weekend going to various events, one of which including the crowning of the Covenant Homecoming King and Queen.

Hakeem asked from the sidelines, "Do it mean they gonna get married?"

I love that kid.

This afternoon, preparing him to go home, we packed up the few things he had, the things we had bought for him, and the souvineers he'd gathered throughout his weeks with us.  He took one of Tee's Pine Cove t-shirts, a fake gold chain necklace with a giant dollar sign hanging from it, the allowance he'd earned from making his bed and brushing his teeth every day, and a Covenant Homecoming spirit ribbon.

I told him over and over how much I loved him as I hugged his little body and kissed his face.  How proud I was of him, and what to do if things got bad.  "Come get us - tell us right away."

"What if she won't let us go outside again?"

"Then you tell your teacher to call Mr. Trey.  You tell anyone to call Mr. Trey.  Buddy, we're gonna be checking in on ya'll all the time.  We'll know if something isn't right, o.k.?"

"O.k."

Trey loaded him up and drove him the 1/2 a mile to his apartment.  When he dropped him off, Hakeem ran inside, said hi to his granny, and then left again before Trey could even say goodby.

A few minutes later, Trey walked in our door, and we looked at each other, listened to the comparative quiet of our house now officially minus three children, and hugged each other.

And then there was a knock at the door.

We opened it.  It was Hakeem...with the biggest grin on his face, "Hey!  Whatcha'll doin'?"

He'd run all the way back to hang out and play some more before dark.

"Not much, Hakeem, come on in."

And so we are back to our life as we knew it.  We are praying that Hakeem's and his siblings' lives will be, somehow, radically different and the Lord will use us to do whatever it takes to make it so.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Hopefully, the last open letter...

Ok, I promise I won't fill this blog with "Open letters to..." but I do have one more to write this morning before the babies who are staying with us wake up in our house for the last time.

The kids who were removed from their home by CPS two weeks ago will be returning to their home tonight and tomorrow morning.  They will be staying with their grandmother who has come down from Chicago to stay indefinitely.  Just like she did last time.

In this situation, I have learned several things - my new appreciation for mothers of multiples being just one.  But what I've learned most, what has made me incredibly angry this week, along with passive aggressive, and prone to swear and cry in the same moment, is that the system is incredibly broken and children are not protected.

Dear Child Protective Services,

My first encounter with you was several weeks ago when I called, as one more neighbor, to report the neglect and suspected abuse of seven children living in a filthy apartment with a mentally ill mother refusing to take her medicine and refusing to send her kids to school.

You did nothing but knock on a door and swallow the mother's refusal to answer with a big glass of  'it's her prerogative'.

Although you were obligated to interview the children, recorded via tape or video, you did not.

You did show up weeks later, after the police had broken down the door and handcuffed the mother, removed the children.  You were frazzled and disorganized and your first question to the children was, "Hey, guys, ya'll having a good day?"

They were not.  They were having an incredibly crappy day.

You were obligated to file a court case. You did not.

You placed the children in the temporary custody of Mercy Street and did not call any of us for two weeks.  When we finally called you, we were told you were placing the children in the care of their grandmother who, although she was saying she wanted the children, had not called them or come by to see them in the 7 days since she'd arrived in Dallas.

Grandmother was called months ago when we saw this coming on.  She did nothing.  She was here the last time her daughter broke down and when she left her daughter to care for seven children, aware of the mental instability she battled, the children were in no better shape than when she arrived.

We know because we saw them every. single. day.

In the weeks these children have been in our homes, you have still neither interviewed them or ordered medical or psychological exams.

Our opinions, our insight, our recommendations have mattered nothing to you because, although we know them better than anyone, we see the anger, the rage, the wandering around the neighborhood well past dark in the cold, the bedwetting of children well beyond a typical age, and their thriving in environments full of routine, and love, and boundries, we are not blood.

You told me that, "Unless the children might die, they must be placed with a blood relative."

And as I sat down with Hakeem (10) this morning, telling him he was going home, he said, "until it happens again?"  

"We're praying hard that it doesn't but, yes, baby, until it happens again."

I told him I loved him, I wanted him and his brothers, and I fought for him.

I'm not sure I did.  I called you, yelled at you, begged you to reconsider, to HEAR us.

Still, I doubt I fought as hard as I could have.  I felt like I was beating my head against a wall.

What I do know, I'm certain of to my core, though, is that you did not.  

You did not fight for him - for any of them.

And that is your job.

Hoodmama



Lord, I do not know your plan, I cannot see what will happen tomorrow, let alone the end of this story you are writing, but I know you.  I know you keep your promises.  I know you fight for the afflicted.  I know you give strength to the weary. I know a bruised reed you will not break.

I know You are good

And that is enough.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

An open letter to mothers of twins.

Over the past week, having new twins in my house, I have come to the realization that I may need to apologize to some of you for comments I may have made, and things I may have done in my dark, unenlightened past.

To save time,  I am writing this post instead of calling or writing each of you individually or whatever Emily Post would say was proper form and all.

If this doesn't apply to you, read along anyway, you may be unknowlingly guilty of the same offenses.

Dear Mothers of Twins,

Please forgive me for ever saying how nice it must have been to get two babies and only have to lose the baby weight once.

Or that it must be so fun since they're both doing the exact same thing.  


Or, "I could never have a night-nurse.  I wouldn't like someone in my house all the time, and besides, I cherish that time to bond with the babies alone."


Or for ever inviting you to meet me for lunch at a busy, hectic place without good parking or a door that will accomodate a side-by-side double stroller.

Or for being slightly judgmental when you gave your older children chocolate cake for breakfast. It DOES contain eggs.


Or for wondering why you fell asleep during our conversation about leggings vs. skinny jeans.  And wondering if you realized you had spit-up on your left shoulder and smushed cereal bar on your right and neither of those "accessories" were featured in People Magazines Style Watch.


And finally, at least for now, forgive me for not being sympathetic enough when you were racked with guilt because if you were holding one crying baby, the other was just sitting on the floor crying by himself and you wondered if he would be scarred for life because of it.

Or for not praying for you every stinkin' day.

Sincerely,
Hoodmama


And for the mothers of triplets or more.  I am wearing saccloth and ashes for you, and sending you a case of Diet Coke.  And a medal.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Welcome Home my brother from the same mother.

Today, I get to remove one thing from this blog.

This.


Last March, I wrote about my snarky brother, Bryan, leaving for war.  He's been gone for six months and Tuesday, while I was at Wal Mart, I received a highly emotional text, filled with love and sentiment.

"Back in the U.S.A."

Let me just say that Wal Mart may not be the best place to receive news that makes you say, "WhooHoo!!  AMEN!!!" really loud.  Especially when you're on the toilet paper aisle.  It may lead people to believe toilet paper is far more exciting than it actually is, leading to a mad rush from shoppers looking to find ultimate satisfaction at a Supercenter.

It's impossible, trust me, I've tried.

He's home, in the arms of his beautiful wife and sons, eating his weight in deep-dish pizza.

The Lord was faithful not only preserving his life but also the lives of all the men under his command.

Thank you, blog friends, for your continued prayers, inquiries, and encouragement while he was gone. 

Ya'll rock.