Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Toltec Mounds, De-Hairing Joshua's Back & Senior Proofs

Yesterday was a good day...because it was Monday and we had no plans. Joshua LOVES Mondays. He loves "sleeping in" (until 6:30) (not kidding) and he loves that I usually make blueberry muffins for breakfast and he loves hanging out at home.

Altho, when I texted him mid-morning, and said, "Let's go Krogering...and to Chick-Fil-A," he was dressed and downstairs in 1 minute FLAT.

And, don't judge me for texting him from downstairs. Joshua is VERY hard-of-hearing, and it just works out better, sometimes...if I just text him what we're doing, instead of yelling upstairs to him.

Whatever works, man.

This morning, Joshua was up early to get ready for Therapeutic Recreation. He came downstairs for breakfast. He never thinks I can hear him, but I always hear him. The sound of small feet wearing Crocs...I could probably hear him from a mile away.

I heard him coming down the stairs...his unbalanced gait on the wood makes a distinctive sound. I heard him scuff down the hallway to the kitchen. But first, he walked to my bedroom door, and quietly closed it.

How sweet is that?

On our drive to Little Rock, we talked about this and that. I told him that it was about time for me to "do" his eyebrows (they get out of control without some maintenance). He said, "I'll save that for Holly."

Oooooookay. I'm sure your sister will be thrilled.

He also said, "it's about time to DE-HAIR my back."

Joshua is hairy. Not like he's a Yeti or anything. He barely has any hair on his arms and legs, but he does have a hairy man-back. He likes for it to be shaved before any Powerlifting competitions, and he has one coming up. I said, "okay, we'll take care of that in the next few days." He said, "we can save that for Holly, too."

He said, "I like my hairy back...I do. But I want to de-hair before my competition."

He asked me if I saw the post he wrote on my sister's wall. She had posted about my niece being sick. I said, "I did see it...it was very sweet. Did you pray for her today?" He said,"uhhhhh...I THINK I prayed for her last night." I said, "well, you told her you would be praying for her." He said, "I think I prayed for her in my sleep." I said, "well, you made a commitment to pray, so you need to follow through." He muttered, "I'll pray to stay awake." And then he started cracking up laughing.

He said, "I don't think God would think my joke is funny...but I do."

Joshua's group went to some Native American Indian mounds today. They took a picnic lunch, and had a great day. I was already waiting on him when they got back to the TR Center. I sat in the car and watched them get out of the vans. The way they help each other is precious. Joshua reached for Jenni, and helped her out of the van...and they BOTH reached for Blair, and helped her out. I was sitting there thinking, "if one of them goes down...they're all going down..." but it was so sweet to watch.

At one point, Joshua noticed the kickball bag had been left on the van, and he jumped back on to get it. Jenni was standing there waiting on him, when, all of a sudden, he LAUNCHES this bag out the door of the van like a torpedo. It almost hit Jenni as it sailed by. OH MY WORD. I laughed for 5 solid minutes.

It was a good day. Jim and I were able to have a lunch date, and that was fun...and then the photographer that took Clark's senior pix emailed the proofs to me, and I spent the majority of the afternoon curled up in a ball and crying my eyes out.

And singing "Sunrise, Sunset" from "Fiddler On The Roof."

Is this the little girl I carried?
Is this the little boy at play?

I don't remember growing older
When did they?
When did she get to be a beauty?
When did he grow to be so tall?
Wasn't it yesterday
When they were small?

Sunrise, sunset
Sunrise, sunset
Swiftly fly the years
One season following another
Laden with happiness and tears


(sniff)

And, I did this with our 3 older kids, too...I just stared at the pictures on the screen, overwhelmed with emotion. I looked at them over and over. I just can't believe this beautiful child came from me and Jim


And now he's gonna graduate and leave us!


Waaaaaaah!


"Behold, children are a gift from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward." Psalm 127:3

Monday, April 20, 2015

Tornadoes And Rainbows (Hey, That Rhymes!)

Last night, we had a tornado warning for our county. We had no idea the weather was even that bad. We may or may not have been watching Tarzan on our TV when the warning scrolled across the bottom of the screen.

Eeek!

Holly was at our house at the time. Aaron-the-son-in-law had gone to visit his parents, and she was home studying for a test.

When I talked to her this morning at church, she mentioned wanting to go out to Target and check out their Lilly Pulitzer collection. She had been so excited for today, because LP is ex-pen-SIVE. She has a couple of LP items that were bought on the sale rack, because GOODNESS GRACIOUS.

Anyway, we had Sunday School and church, and our married son and daughter-in-law were here...and things were kind of busy with lunch and packing and them leaving...but after they left and things settled down, Holly called to see if I wanted to run out there with her. We drove out there...for nothing. Apparently, they sold out on-line and in stores in a matter of minutes. Oh, well.

We hurried home, because coming out of the store into the parking lot, we could see the clouds and the storm forming. 

So, Holly stayed here and she was studying...and I had the TV on, too, because FAMILY ROOM. She said, "we are under a tornado warning." And Jim and I both said, "warning, or WATCH?" She said, "warning," and pointed to the screen.

So I did what any good Arkansan would do...I went outside, stood by the body of water in my backyard, and looked up at the sky. I mean, that's what Jim usually does. Tonight, tho, he got out his lap-top and started looking at advisories and power-outages. I called upstairs to Joshua, and asked him to come hang out downstairs for a while. He was pretty nervous about the weather.

And just so you don't think I'm the ONLY crazy one, our backyard neighbors were GRILLING OUT. During a tornado warning. Those crazies. And it smelled so good that I went in the house and made myself a little snack...and went back out to watch the sky. And, in the spirit of full disclosure, my snack was a few Cheetos in a cup.

Hey. Whatever it takes, man.

The bad weather went just north of us. The sky, the clouds, the lightning...was an amazing and powerful display of the glory and handiwork of God.

If we know bad weather is coming, I am prepared. Like, shoes-and-jacket-on-and-got-the-closet-under-the-stairs-ready prepared. Tonight, I really wasn't scared at all. We weren't having any of the indications of a tornado in our area...no wind, and it was barely even sprinkling. 

When the weather passed, Jim and I decided to make breakfast for dinner. Holly ended up going back to her house to finish studying, and to be there when Aaron got home. And, to get things ready for the week. 

When the last pancake was done and warming on a plate, I stepped back outside...and the BIGGEST rainbow you've ever seen was up in the sky. One of those rare times when you could see the whole rainbow. It stretched all the way across the sky, and it.was.gorgeous. I mean, look at God showing out!

I love rainbows, don't you?

When Clark was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 2, they found a malignant tumor, the size of a man's fist, growing out of his liver. They removed the tumor and part of his liver...and it left a big scar across his little tummy. The scar is in the shape of a rainbow. He has several small scars from that time in his life, but the rainbow scar? He is a healthy, 19 year old, high school senior, but every.single.time I see it...I am gripped in my heart.

Who am I that God spared this child's life? 

To me, a rainbow is a symbol of God's faithfulness. His reminder in the sky that He is still here.

He sees us, and He loves us.

"The LORD has done great things for us and we are filled with joy." Psalm 126:3

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Our Weekend and Growing Pains

So, Logan and Morgan came in this weekend. Morgan's little brother was playing in a baseball tourney, and they wanted to watch him. Plus, they'd just had kind of a stressful week. Logan turned in all of his application and paperwork for Occupational Therapy school, and now the waiting process begins. Logan typically works on Saturdays, but he took the day off and they came home. Friday night, and most of the day on Saturday...they spent with Morgan's family. We weren't going to be home most of Saturday, anyway, so it worked out that both families got to spend time with the kids.

Saturday was a big day for our family, because Clark registered for college. EEEK! He will be attending OBU in the Fall, and we could not be more thrilled. I wrote about our day yesterday here.

What I neglected to mention is that, as we walked across the campus, Aaron-the-son-in-law remarked at how nice everything looked. And it did. I've always thought the campus was so pretty, even back in the stone ages when I went to school there. Aaron said, "the thing that is sad to me, is that the Ouachita River is RIGHT THERE...but you'd never know it. You don't really see it, because of all the buildings."

And, this is how you know there's a chance you might have watched a tad too much "Fixer Upper," because I stood there in the smack-dab-middle of the court-yard, and said, "well, if I was Joanna Gaines, I would tell you that we could 'reconfigure this space' to maximize the view of the river."

Oh, "and add more natural light."

You know...just move a few buildings around to expose the natural surroundings...no big deal.

This morning, we all got up and went to church. Holly was on Praise Team, so they went out on stage first...and then the choir came out. I looked out to where Joshua and Jim usually sit, and saw Logan and Morgan sitting beside them, waving at us. We were just missing Clark, who has to go to first service, because of Youth (but not for too much longer!).

And, I'll just tell you right now, apart from my salvation, and my marriage, and the births of my children, and maybe a few other cool things...there's not too much more thrilling to a mom, than to look out and see her adult children sitting beside each other in the same worship service.

I thought I was gonna die right there.

So precious.

Even tho we had less than 24 hours with everyone here at the same time, it was the best time.

I don't think there's any way I can tell y'all how much fun adult kids are. When my kids were little, even when they were completely exhausting and I would crawl into bed at night and wonder how I would make it another day because I was so worn out...I still loved those days: the lunches at McDonald's or wherever had a "playland"...afternoons at the park...Mother's Day Out for the kids and lunch with friends for me...t-ball and soccer and peewee football...gymnastics and swimming and dance and piano. I loved it all, and I miss it.

Because I never wanted it to end.

I never thought my time as a mom would ever be more fun and rewarding once our kids got older, but I was SO WRONG. I have love, love, LOVED every single stage. I have.

Each stage of parenting has it's own cares and concerns and struggles, and each stage can be wonderful.

Learn from me, my little Padawans...don't wish the time away, and don't try to hang onto it longer. Don't wish they were older, and then when they're older...wish they were young again. Embrace each day...each stage.

I don't want you to feel bad for me when I say the next thing, but listen...I have Joshua, and he has Down Syndrome. He is a man, but he is a child. Many of the milestones our other 3 children met and passed...he did not. And it's okay, it really is. I'm gonna get to be a Mommy to him for...like...EVER. And that's okay.

But it's not "normal." You get what I'm saying?

I don't mean that in a bad way, because "normal" is relative...but it can also be divisive...because I know for myself, there have been times when I just wanted to blend in. Which totally shows that God has a sense of humor, because we stand out pretty much everywhere we go. Oops! But I'm not sure we should strive to be "normal." In fact, I'm not even sure that God calls Christians to be "normal" or live a "normal" life. What is it the Bible says about being "peculiar?" (But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of Him who hath called you out of darkness into His marvellous light;" 1 Peter 2:9)
What I'm talking about is OUR normal. And it's okay.

I'm saying that it's good for our kids to grow and learn; to get to an age where they might not want to hold our hands or be seen with us in public; to form their own opinions (even if they're wrong); to strive for independence; to work out their faith; to get a driver's license and want to be free; to work and make their own money; to vote; to go to college if they want; to get married...to have children...and to raise them how THEY think is best.

Remind me of those last few as you feel led.

Because come August...and I take my baby to COLLEGE...all of this is going out the window, and I'm gonna be crying my eyes out.

But I'm gonna remind myself...it's hard, but it's normal. It's what most kids do...and what they're supposed to do. And I'm gonna remind myself to breathe, to embrace this new stage in Clark's life.

Anyway, back to today, my friend, Ruth, had also come for the service this morning, and it was so great to see her. After church, we went to eat at a Mexican restaurant. Everyone* was really excited about going out, because we usually just go home and eat re-runs (what Joshua calls left-overs) for lunch.

*Well, JOSHUA was not excited about eating out. HE wanted to come home...and change out of his Sunday clothes...and eat his left-over chicken strips from last night.

Hey, I can respek dat. 

We typically walk in the house after church, and it's a full-on race to see who can get in their "comfy clothes" the fastest before lunch. Joshua has a love-affair with his Crocs. He can't get them on fast enough, so when we said we weren't going straight home, but going to lunch instead...he was not happy. And he started doing the mutter. You know, how the bad guys on cartoons used to mutter? Like that.

Plus, he calls his grandmother at straight-up 1 p.m. every Sunday without fail, and our lunch at the Mexican restaurant was totally messing that up.

A fact that he shared with his grandmother immediately after we got home, when he called her.

I was not happy with Joshua.

Anyway, after lunch, we came home and everyone started changing clothes. Logan and Morgan were getting their stuff packed up and ready to leave for their home. Joshua came downstairs and said, "I talked to Mammaw Jack...they are doing okay."

I said, "I heard you telling her that we messed up your plans, because you wanted to come home and eat re-runs."
Joshua said, "IMNOTTALKINABOUTTHATRIGHTNOW."
I said, "that wasn't very nice, Joshua. Logan and Morgan are here, and we all want to hang out with them as long as possible. We have a few left-overs, but not enough for EIGHT people."

Joshua just stared at me. I could see the wheels spinning.

Finally he said, "I was just hungry. You know that commercial that says you're not yourself when you're hungry?"
Me: "Yes."
Joshua, "I was not myself, because I was hungry."

"Train up a child in the way he should go (and in keeping with his individual gift or bent), and when he is old he will not depart from it." Proverbs 22:6

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Clark: Early Registration @ OBU

Y'all, We have had the best weekend.

This morning, we got up at dark-thirty, and headed south to Arkadelphia, Arkansas. It was Early Registration for Clark at OBU.

I cannot believe we are here at this point. My baby...our youngest child...if he has his way, will be heading to college in August.

And Marty will be on the floor in the fetal position.

But today, was for happy thoughts! We all piled in the car: Jim and I, Joshua, Holly and Aaron...and Clark. We had to leave our house at 6:30 in the morning. We drove 40 minutes, and drove thru a Chick-Fil-A for some breakfast. Joshua was a happy, happy camper!

And then we drove the rest of the way.

You know, when we registered Holly and Logan for college...the other siblings didn't come. It was just Jim and I. And it wasn't a big deal.

Now, it was all hands on deck on moving in day...and moving OUT day, and we went as a family. But on early registration day? No.

But nothing was gonna keep Holly away from going with us this morning. She was all kinds of excited and emotional.

She walked ahead of us with Clark and showed him where to go. Jim and I...Joshua and Aaron...we stayed at the back and let Clark go up to the registration table by himself. I mean, if he thinks he is big enough to go to college by himself, then he's big enough to register by himself.

Holly was appalled.

She said, "Well, if YOU aren't going up there with him, I will," and she marched herself right on up there and stood in line with Clark. I wasn't mad about it. I didn't want Clark standing up there all alone, even tho he was just fine.

The first person we saw was one of the head administration person. He shook Clark's hand and said, "do you know who your roommate is?" Clark said, "yes, sir," and proceeded to give him the name that was on his housing letter we had just gotten this week. The man said, "ummm...there's been a change. You are now rooming with my son." Clark was, like, "ooooookay...great."

I don't know if it's because of Clark's "bent," or because his medical conditions forced him to interact with adults at an early age...but he is very comfortable talking with anyone. Kids, teens, adults, people with challenges or special needs...doesn't seem to bother him. I am really thankful.

So the guy calls his son over and introduces him to Clark, and the two of them talk and talk and talk. And then they take off inside, and we don't really see them again until the thing is over. Clark said they got along GREAT, and he is so happy with the change of roommates. I am very thankful he is so flexible. He said, "I'm gonna be living with someone I don't know regardless...so, this guy is fine."

This whole morning was just amazing. How did we even get to this point? When I think about my difficult pregnancy with Clark...how he was born 12 1/2 weeks premature, and weighed a whopping 3 lbs 2 ounces...how he stayed in the NICU for over 7 weeks...how he was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 2...how he endured surgery and chemo...and how God brought him through it all. And now, here we were...registering this precious son for college. I am overwhelmed by the goodness of God.

Jim and I got to see several really good friends while we were there. It is so interesting to see the dynamics of families: the ones taking their first child...and the ones taking their last child. Jim and I totally skipped one of the parent sessions to visit with friends, because BEEN THERE, DONE THAT.

Come move-in day, tho, we'll all look the same: red, teary eyes...sad, sad faces.

We grabbed lunch on the way home. Logan and Morgan came over once we got here, and we were so happy to see them! They decided to come in for the weekend to watch Morgan's little brother play in his ball tournament, and because of Clark.

There were 9 of us at dinner tonight. We had to wait a while to be seated and we had to wait a lonnnnnng time for our food. It is prom night in our town, and we loved seeing all the teenagers all dressed up! The kids all seemed to enjoy visiting, so the wait wasn't a big deal.

We all came back to the house, and the kids got out ice-cream and cupcakes and whatever else they could find. And, now it's after 11 p.m. and we all have to get up early...and they are all sitting in the kitchen at the table, and they are talking and talking and talking.

I think my heart is about to burst.

I hear all the time from friends about situations in their families where there is jealousy or bitterness or people who cannot get along with each other. I am so thankful that my kids enjoy each other and enjoy hanging out together.

Today, our family came together for one reason: to support Clark. Watching Holly walk around the campus that has meant so much to her...showing Clark different things and taking his picture like he was a movie star...well, it was precious. We went in the bookstore no less than 3 times, and bought all kinds of swag. Holly bought Clark AND JOSHUA t-shirts, and bought a sign for Clark's dorm room. We didn't buy anything for Logan, because he is pretty much happy being a Arkansas State Red Wolf graduate, thank you very much.

And, Jim? In an attempt to be funny (AND WE HAVE HAD THE CONVERSATION THAT I AM THE FUNNY ONE, NOT HIM, SO STOP TRYING), said, "well, I'm glad y'all had fun buying goodies in the gift-shop, because all I got out of the trip is the BILL FOR HIS TUITION!"

And it was at this point I wanted to go all Regina George on him and say, "please stop talking."

But I didn't, and he did.

I hope Clark felt really loved today.

"Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity." Colossians 3:14

Friday, April 17, 2015

Oklahoma, Orange Pants and Ouachita

This post is probably gonna be really boring to anyone but my kids. And it might be boring to them, too. Right now, anyway. Just giving you the heads-up. Feel free to skip. :) And I promise I have more "Joshua" posts on the way...that's the real reason people show up here! :)

The summer before my 10th grade year, we moved from Taiwan...to OOOOOOOOOOOklahoma.

Just two years before, we said good-bye to the United States, and began our journey overseas. And we all cried. Because we were moving to a ROCK.

Once we got old enough to realize what my Dad's job entailed, when he would come home with his "orders," we would get out the globe and try to find the new place on the map. And we'd trace our finger along an imaginary route from where we were...to where we were going. We nearly always cried about it, because God was so gracious to provide friends for us in every place we lived...and now we would have to leave them.

You cannot imagine the WAILING AND GNASHING OF TEETH that went on when he came home and told us we were moving to Taiwan. First of all, we couldn't even find it on the globe. And, second of all, when we DID find it, it was the size of a tick.

Seriously? This HAD to be a joke.

And someone (I blame one of my siblings) said, "we are moving to a ROCK." So that's where that phrase came from.

So, two years later, our family of 6 was piled on a military cargo plane, leaving Taiwan. When the wheels left the runway, everyone cheered. And we cried. It was bittersweet, ya know?

And when we finally touched down in the United States...everyone cheered again.

And then we headed for Oklahoma.

If I thought I stood out in Taiwan, well...I stood out even more in Oklahoma...if that was even possible. I mean, I remember when a new guy was transferred to my Dad's office in Taiwan, and we went over to their house to welcome them. They had a teenage girl my age who had led a very different life. I remember being in her room and she was unpacking all of her stuff. She asked me if I wanted to listen to any music, and I said, "sure!" She gave me the choice of several different groups...to this day, the only one I remember her saying was "Bread."

Now, where I came from and in the life I'd led..."bread" was FOOD.

But, that's the group I chose, because BREAD. And I acted like I knew the songs and loved the group. She turned it up really loud and then tried to talk to me. I remember thinking, "why is she trying to talk over the music," and "this is hurting my ears."

And it hit me: I was 15 and I was not cool.

There would be many more times to come, but that was the first time I remember feeling really ODD.

But then we showed up in Oklahoma.

Our family had lived for 3 months in a military guest-house, while our belongings were shipped to the United States. While our parents worked, we hung out at the guest-house pool every.single.day. And I wore the same two-piece, hot pink bikini...every.single.day.

When we arrived in Oklahoma, we were all VERY tan. VERY.

Combine that with the fact that we'd lived on an island for the past 2 years, and my mother had been having some Chinese lady make all of our clothes. My Mom would buy the material, and point to things in the Sears or Penney's catalog, and the sewing lady would magically make outfits appear. My 2 sisters and I nearly always had matching or color-coordinated clothes. We rarely wore them at the same time, but sometimes we did...inadvertently. We almost always wore "out-fits." I never didn't "match." I never even owned a pair of jeans. And I was in the 10th grade.

And I had now moved to Oklahoma, which, next to Texas, has got to be the blue-jean capital of the world.

Bless it.

I think that, on my first day of 10th grade, I wore orange pants and an orange flowered shirt.

What?

Was that wrong?

Oh, never-mind the fact that every other person in my very large high school wore boots and jeans.

Yee-haw.

Walking into the lunch-room/cafeteria that day...well, it just wasn't happening. I wandered down a hall and somehow, by the grace of God, found my way into a snack-bar area. I happened to have some money, and I ordered myself a Coke and a bag of Cheetos. And I ate by myself.

But, over the next few days, I started seeing of the same strange and lonely people, and I struck up a conversation with a girl there...and she became my first Oklahoma friend. Her name was Aurora Ash. We ended up riding the same bus, so I would see her in the mornings and at lunch...and on the ride home. I think that was the extent of our friendship, and you know? That's okay. She was there in the loneliest time for me, because there would've been no way I could've gone into that cafeteria.

Again, God had His hand of protection on me.

At some point in the year, I met a girl named Karen. I think that was her name, anyway. She was in one of my classes, and she was getting a car. And, not just any car...she got a CLASSIC. It was a Falcon, and she was stylin'. She lived near my house, and agreed to pick me up for school so that I didn't have to ride the bus anymore! Also, for the first time in my life, I got to be a part of things in my school...Karen and I were both on the pep club, and I got to ride to and from all the games with her.

Our family had joined a growing and dynamic church in our town, and my parents were very involved. It was through that church that I first met Janet and Linda. They took a chance on the dark girl in the orange pants, and we became the best of friends. They challenged me in my walk with Christ, and were with me through all the struggles of a geeky high school girl. It was so awesome to finally have great Christian friends.

Janet and I only had to take 2 classes our senior years, so we decided to take another 2 classes at a local Jr. College. And then we ate at Braum's nearly every day for lunch. It's a wonder I didn't weigh 300 pounds.

I miss my 17 year old metabolism.

Janet decided to go to college locally, and I can't remember about Linda. Janet also got married right out of high school. I remember that I was in her wedding the night before I moved to college.

I chose to go to Ouachita Baptist University, even tho I did not know one soul in the entire state of Arkansas.

Once again, I was the geeky new kid...only this time, it was by MY choice. I had to trust that the God who had protected me all of my life...had gone before me to prepare the way.

On my loneliest days...8 1/2 hours away from home...in a strange place...God continued to pursue me, to remind me that I was held in His hands.

I had no idea that the experiences I had growing up...moving a lot and always being the new kid...would provide me with a resilience and inner strength I didn't know I had. I had no idea that roommate I was randomly assigned...would introduce me to a blonde-haired, blue-eyed boy from her hometown in L.A. (that's Lower Arkansas), who happened to go to the college across the Ravine; that he and I would eventually marry; that we would have the family we have, the children we have, and the life we've created. We didn't know the twists and turns our lives would take. I always say that if we knew, like if we could've looked ahead, we would've run screaming into the woods...because how could we ever survive some of these challenges? We couldn't. Not without God.

I didn't know any of that when I took that step of faith and chose to go to OBU. Walking my parents out on that first day, and watching them drive away...I had no idea how God would work all of this out for my good and His glory.

But, He did.

"Surely Your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life..." Psalm 23:6