Saturday, May 23, 2015

On October 2013, we arrived at our new home in Lulu, FL.  We were warmly welcomed by the resident mosquitoes, as you can see from poor Jack's dirty face and swollen eye.

 We were also warmly welcomed by our new church family...Lulu is a small town of 272 (before us) people, two churches, one building that used to be a general store, and is now empty, and a lot of pine trees.  It's described online as being a ghost town, but I don't even think enough ghosts live here to call it a ghost town.  I hear ghost town and think deserted houses and buildings, but the humidity and sheer determination of the greenery of Florida tear down anything not kept up with amazing speed.  In the year and a half that we have lived here, I've seen different buildings collapse and fall and become a wildness of growth.  It's impressive.
 I had some boxes to put away.  We moved to a house less than half the size of our old house- we were spoiled by space- and finding a place for everything has been a job and a half.  I purged my bookshelves- I got rid of 75 percent of my books, judging from the amount of boxes I gave away, but I still have boxes that we rifle through stacked in our closets and laundry room.  This is revealing, right?  I own TOO MUCH STUFF.
 There are two towns nearby- Lake City is a city, with lots of lakes, and Lake Butler is a town of 2,500 or so.  And a lake.  There are a lot of lakes in Florida, just so you know.  In October, we braved the waters of Lake Butler.  I was constantly on the look-out for alligators. I have been pretty worried about alligators, without reason.  They are fairly shy, and fairly rare in most populated places.  What I need to be worried about are snakes.  There are nine poisonous snakes common to our area, including cottonmouths and coral snakes.  And four kinds of rattlesnake.
 These early days felt strange.  We were so new to everything,  Do we swim in the lake?  (Sure.)  Can we walk barefoot? (Sometimes.)  What things do we need to watch out for? (See above paragraph.)
Northern Florida is beautiful.
 I didn't think about how difficult it was going to be to adjust to living in the South.  There are so many cultural differences that I did not imagine before we moved.  I have been spending a lot of time trying to figure out where people are coming from.  We don't share a common background.  We don't have a shared history.  I don't have any connection to this place.  It changes everything.
Miles is four here!  He hardly remembers Idyllwild.  Two years is a long time to be gone for a four- or five-year-old.
 I struggled with my mom jobs.  Where do I go to get pumpkins in the Fall?  I found some at the Presbyterian Church in Lake Butler.


 I made them take group pictures until they were mad.  My new iphone took such nice pictures, and I had been without a camera for so long.  The chickens suffered the consequences.

 Giant spiders?  No big deal.
 Cottonmouth snakes?  Big deal.  Unless they are dead in the road.  Please let them always be dead in the road.
 We had to make the difficult decision of what to do with our children.  I wanted to homeschool, but it had become very obvious that Bowden was chafing without social interactions- and that was in Idyllwild!  We had a great homeschooling community to meet with there, but before we decided to come to Lulu, I had decided that we needed to join a homeschool charter school to give Bowden the socializing he craved.  Once we moved to Lulu, though, I was at a loss.  

 We had a lot of wonderful days playing outside, but homeschooling was not coming together, because we had just moved, and Josh felt like we needed to really get going with it.  I had thought that we would wait until January to make the decision, but with a lack of children at our new church, and a total lack of neighbors, Josh thought that the chickens needed to be put in school after two weeks in Florida.

The three older kids went to the same elementary school, and Miles got to go to a different school for pre-kindergarten.  His was an all-day program, but I wasn't ready to part with everyone for so long, and he was only four(!) so I had him go for only three hours a day.  It was still a lot.
Of everything that I lost when we moved, this was one of the hardest.  I missed my kids desperately.  I love homeschooling.  I prayed and prayed about it, and eventually felt like I was submitting to something I did not want to do.  Bowden and Jack ended up having teachers that were just not very good.  Lucy and Miles' teachers were excellent.
I had to adjust to being part of a city- Idyllwild is a tight-knit community.  We now lived in a little, tiny town, but everything we did- school, library, shopping- was done in Lake City, ten miles away.  the community of Lulu is very loosely connected by history, and more closely connected by genetics, and we share neither. 
We came because we felt called to come.  We remain because we believe that this is the place that God wants us to be right now.  There isn't anything I want more than to be where He wants me.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Charles Alban Paulson Tate

Charlie has been out and about for six months now.  SIX MONTHS. 

 When Charlie was six weeks, I put together a nifty little video of all of his cuteness.  I started to post another post.  I got distracted.  I can't tell if Charlie just needs to be held more than my other chickens, or if I am so out of practice.  I don't remember how to raise a baby, and, somehow, I've done it for six months now.  I've been overwhelmed by adjustments- to this place, to our house, to our new life as a pastor's family, and our new status as outsiders.  Things still TASTE differently here, and I feel like I am not nearly as good about knowing exactly what to do with my new little being.  For all that, he's sweet and wonderful, and we're good, very good, to be where we're supposed to be.

  I tell my kids, and everyone, because I find it easy to forget, and important to remember, that everything worth doing takes work, and the more worthy the thing is, the harder it can be.

 Josh has nicknamed Charlie, "Good."  He's been here for five million years already.  He can sit up on his own, but he can't roll over from his back to his front yet.  He has two teeth.  He's had reflux, and sleeps sporadically, and is sweetness, just sweetness when he sees me after a long separation of five minutes.  He hates being cold.  He loves his siblings.  His siblings are crazy about him, too.  We all are.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Bowden's Tenth Birthday...Party

I am pretty certain that everyone that reads these posts know that Bowden's birthday is on June 10th. June 10th is the day after we came home from Chico, and the day before we left for camping with just our nation of six- have you seen Josh's post about it yet? It's Bummer-Free, of course.
I told Bowden that we need to postpone his birthday party, so yesterday was the day.  We had a few of his friends over for a hot-dog-roasting, 'smores-making, stick-fighting, movie-watching, dirt-covered slumber party.  It was pretty perfect for a ten-year old and his friends.
The end of the watermelon eating contest.

This guy is hazy from the smoke.  Possibly just the smoke from what had been a marshmallow on his stick.
My 'smore, made during the stick fight.
Josh G. and Tobey put out the fire.  We live in a dry, dry forest.
My late night picture of the boys on the basketball court.  They were asleep by 10:30pm- that's pretty good, I think.  Lilah slept in Lucy's room, and the little boys slept in their room.
I let the kids watch lots of t.v. in the morning- just this morning!  It was a celebration of all things that are not great for you- the next week will be all broccoli and early bedtimes, in recovery.

I'm just happy that Bowden had a good time.  And I'm glad that I kept my promise to have his party, because this month is CRAZY BUSY.  As I've waited for these pictures to load, I've been packing up for a week in Oxnard with my mom and sister and nieces and nephew.  I'm moving slooooww, though.  We'll see when I get there.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

You should enjoy every moment now.

You know that blog post that's circling Facebook?  That one about the father who hates it when people tell him to, "enjoy every moment now!  They grow up so fast!"  If you haven't seen it- how could you not, but just in case- here's a link.

And I'll say this first.  I don't hate Steve Wiens.  I think that he's probably a pretty nice guy, and a good pastor.  But I HATE this article.  I mean, really hate it.  I react viscerally to it, and I just can't talk about it with Josh anymore because I think it makes him feel bad.

I actually agree with a lot of his points- don't strive towards perfection- strive towards being, "a better version of the person you actually are."   Don't beat yourself up over your parenting mistakes- turn them over to God and admit your faults.

I just hate this idea that your children are a burden.  I hate thinking of children as though they are things to be endured rather than gifts from a Loving Father.  I hate the culture we are in that tells us that children and their care is so exhausting we deserve a little more time to ourselves.

Our culture does not love children.  We do our best in every aspect of our society- even church- to separate out these people and make sure that they are kept out of the adult's world.  We have legalized abortion, infant daycare, pre-school, 7 hours of school a day, and then after-school care, if we need it.  On Sundays, many Protestant churches have Sunday that the kids aren't bothering everyone else while they are trying to worship God.  Why does it feel like we are trying to escape our children?

I have a good friend who started counting down the years until her kids were out of the house- in the first year of their life.  She and her husband have even planned out what they're going to do once the kids are gone in great detail.  The sooner their kids are independent, the better life is.

I've been thinking about the story of the talents in the Bible- three men are given gifts from their boss to steward, and one man is given a smaller portion than the other two.  The other two put their money to work and create something more from what they had- they multiply their blessings. The last man, angry and bitter that the boss gave him so little to work with, buries his money.

You know the ending, right?  The boss comes back, tells the two guys that made a profit- "Nice work!" rewards them, and then moves on to the last man, who pulls out the meager portion he received and says- "It's all here!  It was only a little, so I just kept it, and I knew what a mean man you here."  (I know.  Just the worst paraphrasing ever.  I think you should go to the source- Matthew 25:14-30)

At this point, the boss gets angry, and tells the man that he wasted his opportunity!  Knowing how hard the boss is, the man should have invested it!  He should have done SOMETHING with this gift.  He should have appreciated that he was being trusted with anything!

This is why Steve Wiens article bothers me so much.  I see parents that are burying their children's years in the dirt all around me.  I see fathers who are too tired and too lazy just ignore their kids, and mothers attempt in a desperate way to maintain their pre-baby lifestyle.  I watch people freak out about the amount of time they'll have to spend with their kids when school is out.  I have friends that have complained from pregnancy to elementary school about how much they hate having to deal with their children. 

We don't need someone to tell us that it's okay.  We need someone to remind us to BE GRATEFUL. 

I get that Steve Wiens is a perfectionist and he probably reads all these mom or dad blogs that make him wonder why he isn't doing all the things they are...I can fall into that trap, too.  I have told myself it's okay to let some stuff go. 

But it isn't okay to always want to be at work, or to be constantly waiting for the kids to go to bed.  It isn't okay to hate your kids voices.  We do need to enjoy every moment- because there are people who don't get to.

It may be that this article caught me at the wrong time in my life.  When I read this article for the first time in April, I was watching, via the Internet, some friends of mine from college lose their baby boy.  He lived a year- a short year- in which they prayed, hoped, pleaded- and gave thanks.

They rejoiced in a year of constant medical problems, diminished mobility, and enormous lifestyle changes, because it was their boy.  Their beloved son.  And when he died, his mother wrote about how strange it was to not worry about all of the machines that had become part of her family's life- and about how their absence made her mourn more.

Last month, a young man we have been close to for seven years fell to his death while mountain climbing.  He was twenty one, and one of the brightest kids you'd ever meet.  I watched his family struggle in the sudden loss of their son and brother.  His mother was so glad that they had spent Mother's Day all together.  It was so soon, so fast...

The next time you feel suffocated by your children and their misbehavior...the next time your child puts you in a position that you have never wanted to be in...the next time you want to hide in the pantry and weep, try enjoying.

Just try it.  Think about my friends who lost their baby who was never old enough to make a mess, or throw a tantrum.  Think about my friends who lost their bright and strong twenty-one year old, just entering the responsibilities of adulthood- all the work and care that went into him worth two decades of life.  Think about the endless stories of losing a child, and be thankful that yours is here.  

I'm not saying that this will make everything better, but it does help.  It always helps to be thankful.  In everything.

You should enjoy every moment now.  Now might be all you have.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

I Was A Girl Scout Brownie Leader

I led Lucy's Brownie troop this year, with the help of one wonderful woman named Cassandra.  I led Lucy's Daisy troop last year, and while I really love being with Lucy, I have a hard time believing in Girl Scouts.  It seems like an empty promise, an incomplete hope, and I'm tired of dedicating my energy to it.  I was convinced to see the year out by our leader, and I'm glad I did.  In the same breath, I am glad that this was my last year leading.
I did get to hang out with one of my favorite moms, Dawn Sonnier.  She's always posing.  You'll see.

Marin, Cassandra and Dawn

So blessed am I by the mountains my God has do I deserve to live here?  I don't- but God loves me, and He is quick to reveal Himself and His love all around me.

It was a hard weekend.  I had just found out that our friend Lucas had died as I was packing up to go.  It was good to keep busy, but every spare moment was eaten up by thinking about him, and praying for his family.  To add to the insanity, a seemingly young and healthy mother who was hanging out with us had a stroke and we had to call the paramedics- she ended up being taken to the helipad on the hill and helicoptered to the hospital.  We were quick to address the girl's questions and fears, and we took care of what we needed to, but it was not the most pleasant camping trip. 
Still God is good to me.

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