Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Just one more way I'm mistaken for being Amish.

Thanks for all the encouragement on my last post.  Y'all are a feisty bunch and I like it.

My stepmother, who is a fabulous cook, called me two weeks ago all a buzz over Amish Friendship Bread.

"Although it's not really bread, it's more like cake."

She said and that I had to make it with my kids and she was overnighting the starter to me first thing Monday morning.

See how pushy she is - making me bake cakes with my children?  I know.  Ugh.

After getting the starter and the directions which involved mashing it and adding sweet sugar and vanilla and miscellaneous yummenities (not a word), finally, Monday night, it was time to bake our bread.  Although, it's not really bread, it's more like cake.

I knew it was time because my stepmother called to make sure I knew it was baking day.  She also made me eat a handful of Peanut M&M's and drink a Diet Coke.

The nerve of that woman.

On a side note, I, as a woman, have the right to change my mind at any given moment for any given reason.  And so I have.  I now prefer Peanut M&;M's to Milk Duds.  I'm not saying I won't go back to my first love or anything but, for now, Peanut M&M's are the new black.  Or the new Milk Dud's.  Or my greatest impediment to being bathing-suit-ready.  Whatever.

Ok, back to the bread.  That is really more of a cake...

Olivia wanted to do the caramel pudding/dried apple variation so I bought her the stuff and she went to work. 

She stirred, and added, and measured until it was a big bowl of yummy batter.

I don't have a picture of the finished product because it was gone before it came out of the pan.  It was awesome, and I even let the kids have a bite.  Darius loved it except he thought there were too many mangos in it.

News flash, there weren't any mangos in it.

Then we bagged up four "Amish Friendship Bread, that's actually more like a cake, Starters" and delivered them to unsuspecting friends.

Now, for the behind the scenes...

While we were baking, Devron brought multiple bugs in the house to show me.  Here is his ladybug.  Right near the food.

Najee is in the background about to make some Ramen Noodles because he wasn't so sure about the bread/cake and basically can't be in my house for more than 3.2 minutes without making a bowl of noodles.  Well, as long as they're not full of Sodium.

The kids also had fun with my camera.  This is only one of about a billion pictures they took of my ugly dog.

Nice tongue Scout.  Way to try.

And Dea, being the sweet big brother was building a race car on his Xbox game for Sadie.  This is the conversation I overheard from the kitchen.

"Sadie, what kind of rims do you want?  You want your car sittin' on some 22"s or 24"s

"Ith that the biggetht you can get?"

"No, you can get some 26"s or 30"s but those are way big.  Have you ever seen a Hummer sittin' on some 30"s?  They're bigger than you."

"YEAH!  Thath what I want.  And purple.  Can they be purple?"

"We'll try."

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Short posts are overrated.

Let me begin by saying, this is a long one.  Go grab a Diet Coke and get comfortable...

A couple of Sundays ago, an article came out in the Dallas Morning News about our family.  I knew it was coming because, well, the reporter interviewed me for it, sent a photographer to my messy house, and I bought new concealer, extra-strength.

Anyway, we've had some pretty kind responses to the piece and I'm thankful to all the people who have called, emailed, and written with encouraging words.

Nonetheless, we did get a couple of notes that were not so sweet.  One in particular made me really mad because it was, 1. snarky and 2. anonymous.

It said - in big block letters, typewritten -

"Regretful to see a father (and mother) put their precious children, especially two young girls, in such peril and harm's way."
You suck.

They didn't really sign it that way, but it's sure how it felt.  I had so, so many reactions to this that I'm kind of thankful there wasn't a return address.  Some of them were not so nice.  I may have cussed.  I wrote them out.  Wanna see?

Oh, I kid. 

Anyway, then, two days ago, I received an email offering warning, from experience, to be watchful of all the kids coming in and out of the house.  It was not anonymous, it was full of grace and exhortation and so what I thought was this...

A lot of people are thinking it, some have said as much to my face over the years, and so, since nothing overtly funny happened in the hood today, it might be worth talking about.

So, here's the deal - of all the things that made this move really hard for me, it was the thought of bringing my children into a place where they were anything but totally safe.  At the time we had three - Sadie was still cooking - and their innocence delighted me in a way I can't really explain and I wanted to protect it.   So did Trey.  But to not come to a place we were really clearly called would be disobedient  - even if it seemed out of line with what common sense would have us do.  If our example is Christ, common sense kind of gets trumped by the whole, "Come, follow me." thing.

We had to look long and hard about what the Bible said about safety, protection, what it looks like to follow Him, and our own prejudices.  And we got lots of counsel.  My favorite was from a dear pastor in our church, Paul Settle, who looked across his desk at me one day and said, "You know, Melissa, a quarter of an inch deep, we're all the same."  And he reminded me that our propensity to do really bad things to one another was a heart problem, not a race or economic problem, and without the hope of the Gospel, we're all on the wrong side of eternity.

So we moved with eyes as wide open as possible.  I believe we're beyond careful with all the kids and the friends that come in and out.  That being said, my hope rests in the One who is their Ultimate Protector, who will command his angels concerning them, and who upholds them in His righteous right hand.
Those are the promises of the One who called us in the first place and nothing can happen apart from his divine will.  Do I always sleep great at night?  No.  Do I worry about the worst case scenario?  More than I should.  Do I sometimes fantasize about living in the really nice neighborhoods with gates and lovely people who don't hurt children?  Every day.

The reality, though, is in this day and age, nowhere is Mayberry.  We wouldn't let our kids play with closed doors, etc., etc., anywhere.  I had an exceptionally bad run-in with one of those All-American boys in high school and no one would have suspected him to be capable of what he tried to do; especially his wealthy parents in their safe neighborhood, surrounded by people who looked just like them because we believed the outermost quarter of an inch meant ideal, college-bound, and safe.

I'm a mama bear and feisty as all get out when it comes to my kids.  And when I say that, I mean all six, not four.  We have to constantly remind ourselves why we're here, and that above all, we are to be still and know He is God.  Ps. 46:10


Ok, one more thing and then I'll wrap this up.  Providentially, just around the time the article came out, and the subsequent questioning of our wisdom as parents and the ability to care for our own children, I started a book called Radical by David Platt

One of the things he says was particularly convicting to me as a believer and reassuring at the same time.  I'm gonna write it out so it will make this post painfully longer that it should ever be on a blog such as this but it does help affirm that our lives will often look differently that what appears right in the world's, and frankly, even some believers' eyes.

...go get a Diet Coke refill...

Radical, pp. 73

"We take Jesus' command in Matthew 28 to make disciples of all nations, and we say, "That means other people."  But we look at Jesus' command in Matthew 11:28, "Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest," and we say, "Now, that means me."  We take Jesus' promise in Acts 1:8 that the Spirit will lead us to the ends of the earth, and we say, "That means some people."  But we take Jesus' promise in John 10:10 that we will have abundant life, and we say, "That means me."

In the process, we have unnecessarily (and unbiblically) drawn a line of distinction, assigning the obligations of Christianity to a few while keeping the privileges of Christianity for us all."

I don't really know how to wrap this one up except to say, I get it.  I would have thought the same thing so many have thought, wondered, and written in anonymous letters we opened wearing HAZMAT uniforms. I think the discussion is good but, if we're going on gut instead of Gospel, I'm fairly certain resolution is impossible.

Good night.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Slurpee Interruptus.

Yesterday morning, at church, my friend Mindy, in her sweetest Indiana accent ever (totally made up, there's no such thing as an Indiana accent), told me she didn't really get my post from Friday about Sadie thinking a snack wasn't actually eating.

Sometimes, the things I think are sarcastic and funny aren't actually sarcastic and funny but, instead might appear as though I am promoting some sort of eating disorder in my child. I swear I'm not unless teaching her that the best way to round out an apple is by slicing it, putting it between two pieces of bread slathered with peanut butter and grilling the whole thing until it's all warm and melty and delicious.

And as I read that back, I realize that Mindy may be onto something.

And speaking of health, have I ever mentioned my childrens' affection for the Slurpee? They can't get enough and driving past a 7-Eleven with them in the car on a hot afternoon is enough to send me to the funny farm.

Is there such a thing as a funny farm? Does everyone think it's funny or would it just be me, kind of like Friday's post?

Anyway, Saturday night officially marked the beginning of summer with a trip to Aunt's Stella's Shaved Ice. It's kind of a Dallas institution located in a little neighborhood in Oak Cliff, and they're only open three days a week, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

It's the one treat that outshines the Slurpee in my kids' eyes. Our favorite flavor is Beetle which is some crazy concoction none of us can identify but don't really care. There's always a line but the sno-cones are definitely worth the wait and everyone just smiles and chats and sometimes debates the very best flavor.

And the gentleman in this picture is actually very nice and friendly, not scary at all and certainly not about to shake his fist and yell, "GET OFF MY LAWN!!!", like the photo might suggest.

Anyway, if you're in Dallas, make a point to go. If you're not, come visit and I'll take you but you have to be here before 9:00pm because that's when they stop serving and there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Mostly by me.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Good Parenting. Check.

I've got a billion things to do this morning before I get to have lunch a with my friend, Kathryn, to celebrate both her birthday and being five years, cancer free.

She's pretty great and for sure, this is a day worth celebrating.

So, I have to actually shower and wash my hair this morning and then turn the whole thing into something that will pass actually walking into and sitting down in a restaurant instead of the Chick-fila drive through window.  Let me tell you, it's not gonna be easy.

Yesterday afternoon Sadie told me she was hungry so I asked her if she wanted a snack. She replied in her sweet, sing-song voice, "Mom, how 'bout, instead of a snack, we actually eat something?"  And I realized I had officially succeeded in teaching her that a snack is not actually eating, it's just the food version of activity interruption.  Like the phone ringing, or having to use it.

High fives, all around!

Monday, May 10, 2010

After the update, I promise there's a takeaway.

Trey is finishing his episode of Swords, Life on the Line, so I thought I'd take a minute to give you a quick update and, perhaps, a little nugget of advice for your smallish humans.  If the fact that we're spending a perfectly good Monday night watching a show about sword fishing makes you think we don't have the most riveting social life, well, I'd go ahead and run with that thought.

First of all, thank you so much for all your prayers for the family I wrote about in my last week.  Their grandmother and aunt arrived Thursday night-ish and the kids say they feel better now that other adults are at the house.  Hannah and I are hoping to sit down with them this week to see how we can help.  Although taking the children and running to a country with non-extradition policies sounds inviting, we know it's not how the Lord would have us come alongside this family.  What that will look like, we're very unsure, but it's certainly something we covet your prayers about.

Next, our A.C. is back on and thanks to my new BFF at Republic Heating and Air, I'm considerably less grumpy.  It would appear that our A.C. is dying a slow, painful death but like a dog on a bone, we're bound and determined to wring every last bit of cool from it before we shell out several thousand dollars to replace it.

And now for the moment you've all been waiting for...

A little advice for the youth in your homes...

If you'll step aside and allow them to sit at the computer, I'd like to have a brief word with them and hopefully, give them a little nugget of wisdom to help in their journey through life.  Don't really step aside.  I'm kidding.


Sweet child, I know I sometimes like to throw out comments that sound hip and cool but I don't really know or understanding the meaning.  For example; once I told Dea that Mr. Trey and I were going to go out on a date and, trying to be funny, I said after dinner we might, "Hit da club and get our freak on."

It did not mean what I thinked it meaned.

My point being, sometimes, in our youth (or our middle-ageth), we say things and don't really think about how they might actually sound once outside our brains and into the vast abyss where there is no rewind.

So here's my advice for you...

If you are standing in front of a woman who is introducing you to her friend, do not under ANY circumstances ask if the woman (even if she is 38 and kind of haggard-looking), "Are you her granny?" and by "her" you mean the friend. - ESPECIALLY if the friend is, albeit beautiful, a 31 year old woman herself).

Thank you for your cooperation.

An inspiring Mom.

Last Friday, in honor of Mother's Day, I wrote about a mom from our community in the Dallas Morning News Briefing.  The link posted online yesterday afternoon and I wanted to share it with you...

I haven't actually known Sonya Wilson for very long. I have, however, seen her beautiful children -- especially her son, Sebastian -- around the neighborhood and in our home. (He's one of Darius' best friends.)
I've seen her strong influence in their character, in the way they respect her instruction and in the way they treat others. For those reasons, she stands out, and I had the privilege of sitting down with her and her kids to see what it was that she was doing so right.

melissahillsonya_wilson.JPG Since 1985, Sonya has lived in West Dallas. She had Sebastian when she was a teenager, and closely behind came Ne'Ne', and finally, Jermond. They're 17, 15 and 14 and ooze joy with one another -- so much so, you can't help but notice something's different.

These kids love their momma.

"She's just the very best mom," says Sebastian, a 6-4 basketball star. "I wouldn't want any other."

"She's taught me to be a strong woman like she is -- independent. She's taught me to respect myself," chimes Ne'Ne', a cheerleader for Pinkston who's making excellent grades (just as her momma expects).

Jermond is lying in his momma's bedroom, eyes open, awake -- but quiet. His bed is 2 feet from hers always, and although he can't respond to her, she's confident he knows her. At 15 months, after contracting viral meningitis, he went from being a busy toddler to being severely disabled. Sonya was just 23.
Jermond needs full-time care during the day so Sonya can go to work at Home Depot, a job she's proudly held for five years.

At night, Sebastian says, "We all help but she -- she's amazing. She pops right up in the middle of the night when he needs her because she's his momma. That's what mommas do."

Sonya couldn't agree more. The single mother says simply, "I'm the mom. People say I'm strong, but I'm just doing what I'm supposed to do for my son -- for all the children.  She longs for them to enjoy their childhood and hang onto their innocence as long as possible. She also wants to see them have and do what she did not.

In a season when her home could be filled to overflowing with teen angst, Sonya Wilson's is not. Instead, she is surrounded by children who honor her for the mother she is to them, who love one another -- and who have joy and perspective that stand out in the heart of Dallas' inner city.

SONYA WILSON with her children (from left) Jermond, Ne'Ne' and Sebastian.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy Mother's Day!

I woke up this morning to a sweet card, flowers, and chocolates from my precious family.

My card was totally in Spanish because Trey bought it last night at the Fiesta.  With my limited bi-lingual-ness, I gleaned, "Celebrate the Day of the Dead", and "May you have easy time with your washing."  It is perhaps a step up from the card he gave me last year that said something like, "Hey, Baby, let's go do what made you a Momma in the first place..."

Baby steps, people.  Baby steps.

Graham painted a portrait of me.  Gotta love a kid who knows to leave off the wrinkles.

Olivia's card held a check for $100,000.  It was written by her, out of my account but it's the thought that counts, right?

Nancy Churnin, a reporter for the Dallas Morning News, wrote a sweet article on our family that also ran today.  When something like this comes out, the Lord is always faithful to humble me very quickly.  My friend Becca emailed me at the crack of dawn with this...

...while I was reading, I noticed that you can click on your name and follow the link. Here's what it led me to:

"Melissa Hill (born January 8, 1970 in San Francisco, California) is a pornographic actress and director."

And now, the truth as to how this ministry is really funded, is finally revealed.

Wishing you a blessed Mother's Day from our family and our apparent seedy underworld!


Tuesday, May 4, 2010

If you happen to read this blog...

This morning I was at an event for the new families whose kids will be joining mine at Covenant this fall.

It's always fun to see the mix of excitement and fear cross their faces when you start talking about Singapore Math, and recess, and they start actually invisioning their child on campus in their uniform.

Were they to know my children better, their faces might read a little heavier on the fear side.

Oh, I kid.

Anyway, I was talking to a couple of women who will have Explorers in the fall and they mentioned that they read this blog. I told them that's Trey's favorite thing - when he's telling a story and someone says, "Yeah, I know. I read it on your wife's blog." Fantastic.

It is a strange relationship, though - the one's created in the whole blog-world. I feel like I know people really well even though we've never met face to face. I like the people who's blogs I read and I feel kind of like a friend even though they have no idea who I am. I'm not the most consistent commenter but I'm a faithful reader. As a writer, I love comments because it helps me know who's out there reading. I also have to be careful not to get my feelings hurt if I write something and no one says anything. It could be because the post stunk to high-heaven, or maybe they were just busy and had to go change a stinky diaper and cook dinner and drive carpool and go to work. At least, that's what I like tell myself when I go to my happy place where there's only rainbows and sunshine.

What I try to do is remember why I write this thing in the first place...I'm not a scrapbooker and writing all this stuff down sure helps alleviate the guilt I feel for checking the NO box on yet another Creative Memories Evite. I also really want to share with whomever might land here about the work the Lord is doing in West Dallas. Sometimes it's easier for me to laugh about the craziness than it is to really write about some of the heartache that's going on all around us.

All that to say, the ladies I was speaking to today were asking about the neighborhood, and the blog, and I asked them if they remembered a family of kids we kept about six months ago. Back in September, we had, for the second time, part of a family of seven kids come stay with us. CPS got involved and basically did nothing. I may or may not have written an ugly letter to them on this here blog.


Now, six months later, just as we told them would happen, the family is coming apart at the seams once again. The kids haven't been in school in a month, they're wandering the streets at all hours, hungry, and dirty. We're finding ourselves stuck between a system that won't act and a momma who can't take care of her kids but won't let anyone help her.

In the middle are seven really great children who break our hearts and eat all our popsicles. We're O.K. with the popsicles, we just wish we had a little less of the heart breaking.

So, these ladies I was talking with today - the blog readers - encouraged me to share what's going on so that, if you feel so moved, you might pray for them. And for us. Our hearts are all pretty heavy and burdened and I want to fix it and can't.

This whole blog thing is still kind of weird to me but when I meet women like I did today, and read posts like this from my blogger-friend Traci, whom I've never met face to face, I'm assured there is a powerful, gracious God who uses really strange ways to get our attention and uses really strange venues to bring His people together.