Wednesday, May 25, 2011

After the Storm

I've been saying for weeks now that our back yard looks like a ghetto day care. This didn't help...

This is what it looks like...

... when I go to fold laundry after not doing it for three days. Fun times.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Just as I decided I didn't want to cut Pip's hair....

... she did it herself. :(

 A big chunk off of her left side and then some in the back on the right side (but at least that looks a little more like layers)

Yes, the big girls had all sorts of sewing projects that they left out on the bedroom floor - including sewing scissors. I guess it's good that with the 7 children this is the first time we've ever had a self administered hair cut. But still. Boo.
I had JUST been thinking about how around this age I cut the other girls' hair to little bobs but how I did not want to do that with Pip's. But oh well, it's just hair.
She cried and cried after as if she thought the cuts she did wouldn't be permanent (you can tell from the top picture). She really cried hard when I told her we would have to cut all the rest short too.
Fortunately, we had a park play day the next morning scheduled for our flock and one of the moms cuts hair. She was such a blessing to me - brought her scissors to the park and sat Piper down right on the ground and cut her hair.
 She was pretty amazing - considering the crazy wind ("where the wind comes sweeping down the plains" is in the song Oklahoma for a reason)

And now my baby looks like a big girl.
 Before she saw it (since she got it cut in the park) Pip felt it and looked at me with a sad face and said "Mommy - it's too little." But as soon as she saw herself in the mirror in our van she loved it. Kept smiling at herself in the mirror. She wanted me to take a picture of her with her pretzel.
I know it could have been much worse. I am thankful for that and for a cute summer cut and for a friend to fix the mess. No use crying over cut hair. :)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Saddest. Night. Ever.

We had to say goodbye to our dear friends, the Lees, on Sunday night.

We've known for a while that this was coming. As with most military families - staying in one place is not how it works. Andrea and I had been living in denial for the past few months.

We got together every day their last week here.

On Monday we hung out and the guys went to see Thor.
On Tuesday Andrea and I took Maddy and Madison with our friends, Amy, and her daughter, Abigail, out for a little girls night. Madison, Maddy and Abigail are the oldest girls in our co-op and have a special bond between them.

A topic for another post is how our 13 year old daughters almost got hit on by 20 something year old young men!
On Wednesday Jason and I celebrated our 15 year anniversary. So, the Lees came with us to the Melting Pot (my FAV!) for a fantastic dinner and then we stayed up late at our house.

Thursday was our mom's night. Mom's night is always the best night of the month - except when you're having to say goodbye to a beloved friend - and when one of you is missing due to being super sick.
We ate at the Cheesecake Factory, which has become the norm since it's open till 11.

Instead of eating our cheesecake there we headed back to Tiffany's house so we could say goodbye in private. (Of course, I know it's not my goodbye night with her so I continue to live in denial and try to be dead inside.)
After laughing for over an hour we gave Andrea our gift - a Kodak Pulse digital frame. It is the only frame that allows you to email your pictures directly to it. So, not only had we already sent over hundred pictures to the frame - over the next year we can continue to send her pictures so she and her family can be a part of our lives.
Then Andrea read the beautiful poem that she wrote for us. It was all about gathering around tables - because that is so often how we fellowship. It ultimately reminds us that we will all gather around a bride's table one day in glory. She then gave us the most beautiful necklaces made from spoons (get it - the table theme?). Each one is different - made from a different pattern. They are beautiful and I will cherish mine.

Well, after a teary prayer time we decided "hey - since you are not leaving till Monday morning, maybe we could meet again for Sunday breakfast so that Amy can be with us?!" So that became the plan. I did mention that we love to gather around the table didn't I?
Friday the Lee kids played at our house for the afternoon and Jordan and Andrea joined us at dinner time. The kids played and we watched Inception with the hopes of figuring out for certain if he is awake or dreaming at the end. (Well, Andrea and I had that intention. The boys didn't care.)
Saturday morning Andrea and I ran errands and she bought a zoo pass for our family. Man, they are SO generous! Saturday evening was church and afterwards we went back to the RV (oh man - I haven't mentioned that they are living in an RV! Have been for 2 months since their house sold. She is such a trooper. You can follow Andrea's blog through this painful move as she chooses joy at and had pizza and roasted marshmallows.

Sunday morning we met for that mom's breakfast where we were ALL there. Andrea read the poem to Amy and gave her her necklace.

 Amy had a funny gift of her own. Whooo did a great job at choosing joy? Andrea!

Now, Andrea drove with me - which means I had to ride home with her after saying her goodbyes.

It was very emotional and the experience was trying very hard to get me out of denial. :(
Then our families went to the zoo for the day. It was beautiful out. All the animals had babies and we had lots of fun.
 Jordan and Andrea held hands all day - it was very sweet.

 The most fun was the new elephant habitat complete with new baby elephant!

 Before leaving we got these pics... Madison and Maddy with the "See you soon" sign. Because we really believe we will see them soon. (And if Harold Camping is right we will see them in 4 days. haha)
 Carson and Mitchel stood on their states and waved. Sniff sniff.
Back at the house we had dinner. Unable to think about saying goodbye the guys made us go to Thor. It was definitely more fun for the boys but it was a distraction.
The kids were pretty hyper when we got home. I think part of their dealing with the sadness was to be so silly. The Lees have letters to all our kids and Madison and Carson gave gifts to Maddy and Mitchell.
Ally read the stories she wrote about "The Super Awesome Lees." Then we prayed together for the last time.

And then the goodbyes.
I think I can honestly and accurately say I have never seen anything as sad as what I watched in my living room that night. It was not just crying. The children were weeping and sobbing. It even seemed like fake exaggerated crying but it wasn't. Mitchell and Cole stood facing each other with the tears pouring down their faces. I pushed Cole towards him and said it was ok for them to hug. They embraced each other so hard and wept vigorously. And it was like that for each good bye. Maddy and Mitchell have not only become like siblings to Madison and Carson but to every one of my kids.
Maddy's cry was so loud and filled with grief that you would cry just hearing it. Man, I am crying right now as I type this just recalling the night. And as sad as it was I would have preferred to stay in the living room crying than have to say goodbye to Andrea. It was so painful. And to see my children's hearts breaking ripped mine out. They may deny it but I'm pretty sure even the dads shed some tears. It was the saddest night of my life.
After long hugs and making the rounds we walked them out to their cars. Our entire family stood on the porch, all of us crying (and not just quietly crying - I mean, loud ugly sobbing) and waved until they drove around the corner.
We came back in and sat in heaps on the couch while Jason and I tried to comfort 7 mourning children. Piper finally fell asleep inbetween sobs but still woke herself up twice crying. I think we sat crying and comforting for at least another 30-40 minutes. One of the sweetest things was how I saw my children comfort one another. Ally kept going to Piper and Ty and Carson to rub their backs. Cole hugged Pip while she cried. Carson went and sat by Madison and wrapped his arms around her. It was truly comforting to my soul to see that.
Jason and I pointed the kids to 1 Thess. 5:18 which says "In all things give thanks for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you." We asked the kids to list things they could be thankful for despite the circumstances. They came up with..
     ~that Mr. Lee has a good job in this economy
     ~that we had 3 fun years of great friendship with them
     ~that the pain makes us long for heaven

We still couldn't get the crying to stop -so even though it was 11:45 I started an episode of Extreme Home Makeover. I said I'd only let them watch up to the first commercial break. But even I wasn't ready to stop being distracted so we watched till the end.

I know there will be difficult days ahead. Especially for the Lees. But we thank God for them and pray for them to return. And we thank God for all the technology that can connect us. The kids have been texting with Maddy and Mitchell the last two days and have already written seveal letters to be mailed to Ohio. The kids thought we could wrap up our thoughts with this this..

             "It is better to have loved the Lees and lost than to have never loved them at all."

Friday, May 13, 2011

Anniversary trip

My tricky husband schemed a little plan to take me to California to see some of our most favorite friends- Chad and Erika (a big thanks to Uncle Sam and Uncle Jack for making it possible). All in celebration of being married for 15 years! I was very surprised - overwhelmed when he told me 2 days before departure. SO for 2 days I continued to be overwhelmed as I cleaned and packed the kids and packed for us and got medication to help little boys not wet the bed and wrote out schedules and worried that everyone would obey and be delightful for my friends that graciously agreed to watch them. In between the hustling I found moments to get very excited about 5 days of get-away and fun friends.

Once to the airport- before the crack of dawn on Monday- I was filled with excitement. Big Boo to Southwest Airlines open seating policy and a bigger boo to the people who seeing a married couple trying to find seats together wouldn't offer up their aisle or window seat to accommodate.

My whole body was happy when I saw the view from the Ontario airport outside of LA.
I was even happier to see Erika pull up - with balloons coming out of the window and 3 kids in car seats in tow! My heart melted the moment I saw 5 week old Johnna Rae. James was super cute and welcoming but Jessa was very unsure of the stranger sitting close to her. I worked hard at trying to make her like but didn't really make progress until I pulled out my iPhone and let her see some of the kid games I have on it.

Being with Chad and Erika was the greatest gift. They are AMAZING parents and I remembered how HARD it is to have 3 little ones who need constant training.

On the way home from the airport we got In And Out Burger which then fulfilled my list of things I wanted to do (see mountains and eat at this much talked about burger joint)

 I thought is tasted great but don't see what all the fuss is about. I'd take Rally's over it any day (are there more even out there?? sniff sniff).
Look at this cutie who wanted to sit by me all week. He is precious!!
Also - it must be said that part of getting to go meant that Jason would have to answer his phone for anything business related. Not ideal but totally understandable. SO - for a lot of the trip he looked like this...
On Monday we hung out at their apartment - read books to the babe and got caught up with E while we waited for C to get off work. We stayed up crazy late and laughed a lot (this will be a theme for the week) and went to bed happy and nourished to the soul.

Tuesday we strolled around downtown Redlands, saw their old coffee shop, ate at a great bakery/restaurant and them drove up into the mountains to Big Bear. I was not expecting CA to be this beautiful!!

Once in the deserted little ski town we strolled around shops and played by the lake. Every view was beautiful and it was SO PEACEFUL!
 And how crazy to go from sweating in the 90+ degree heat to needing to bundle up from the cool mountain air. Jessa in her adorable hat...

 Isn't he handsome...
 I held the baby as much as I possibly could. Glad Jason grabbed this pic...
 15 years later.. and still so in love...

We ate a lodge sort of restaurant. Our generous hosts did not allow us to spend a penny on this trip. We were so blessed by them!

On Wednesday evening the grown ups (and Johnna) shopped around at Victoria Gardens. I might have loved two shirts on the Anthropologie clearance rack that Jason bought them for me.

Then we ate at the most fantastic restaurant!
 Similar to the Melting Pot - each table has a grill in the middle.
 Then they bring endless amounts (as long as your have a sugar daddy to but you the all you can like Chad did) of delicious things to cook and eat. It was so so super yummy.
 But I did not eat this little guy since it really looks like a little guy...
 We were so happy to find such a neat place to enjoy each other that night.
 On Thursday we went to Pasadena to Hunting Library and Gardens. It was BEAUTIFUL. The art museums were stunning but my favorite was the rose garden which looked liked was the set for every Jane Austen book tuned movie. (And actually has been used in hundreds of movies - like Iron Man 2, The Wedding Planner, My Best Friend's Wedding, National Treasure 2 and Memoirs of a Geisha to name a few)

Jason and I also hit the Huntington Library where we saw a Gutenberg Bible and one of the earliest copies of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. I was so excited and took pictures for the kids because we had just studied these two things in history.

The big bonus was that it was FREE DAY. Well, that's not really the bonus - if you don't have advance tickets (which we did not) you cannot get in on free day. But a sweet man had pity on us when he learned we were from Oklahoma and let us in for free anyways. Sweet!

Chad had mentioned that he thought we were in the neighborhood with the house from Father of the Bride. So, when we left we headed out to find it.
 Isn't this just every girl's dream house? Jason wanted his picture in front of it...
We went to the world famous (only to coffee snobs) Intelligencia Coffee
And then, I had to go all the way to California to go to my first IKEA. We ate dinner there and walked all through.

And finally on Friday we went back to downtown Redlands and ate at a gourmet pizza place. I had mashed potatoes and broccoli on mine. And I feel fancy because of it. :)

The day (and nights and wee hours of the morning) were filled with encouragement, laughing, talking, YouTube clips, and more laughing. How I wish I could convince them to buy the house 2 doors down from us that's for sale. They are truly forever friends. I already miss them.

I thank my wonderful husband for all his planning and sacrifice. And my Anniversary treats were not over here... the Melting Pot and the Mayfields are in my near future!!!