Sunday, February 17, 2008

Amazing Women

I returned today from my first ever girls' getaway. Nine of us traveled to North Myrtle Beach for a few days of rest and relaxation. We all are currently attending the same church, so we share that common bond. Some of us know one another well; some of us were meeting for the first time.

It was such a good weekend for me. I got nine hours of good, solid sleep each night. I enjoyed great conversation, amazing food and a beautiful place. The weekend was a blessing. The view from our house, which belongs to a friend of Jackie, who organized the entire event.
Cindy is one of the funniest, warmest, most resilient women I have ever met. I enjoyed every minute around her. She's also special to me because her son and my daughter are currently boyfriend/girlfriend.

Susan was a new friend here; sharp and insightful, kind and thoughtful, she was a blessing in more ways than one. Susan's ministry experience gives her a lot of wisdom and a fascinating perspective.

Rachel - beautiful inside and out. What a joy to get to know this woman, who is in leadership in our CARE ministry at our church!

Cathy is the 'strong, silent' type - a steady presence and a great friend. She's made a commitment to better health and is looking hot as she continues to buy new clothes for her skinnier body.

Kelley and Rachel...Kelley is never without a smile...

Kelley and Carol, who is a member of our church leadership team with a great heart for women and for missions. She is one of the wisest women I know.

Gina, my wonderful long-time friend who almost didn't make it; I'm so glad she did!
Jackie organized the entire event, stating that she wanted to invite some people that she hoped to get to know better. We were all honored to be included! Jackie is inspiring and gifted; she encourages me to keep my focus on God almost every time I am in her presence. Here, she happily poses with her 'I'm Too Sexy' Dancing Pig.
Jackie is also extra special to me, because her youngest son is dating my oldest daughter.
Cndy got a tattoo to commemorate her first EVER weekend away from home. It was painful but I'm guessing that she feels it was worth it.
How did Kelley manage to get into this picture, too?

Before we left, we invaded the space of this guy, who was quietly watching the water, and asked him to take our picture. I didn't get that shot on my camera - it will turn up later - but I did manage to snap the photographer...

We ate dinner at T Bonz - way too much food, but a good time. We tried to talk our waiter, Christopher, into beginning a long-distance relationship with Cindy's daughter. He was intrigued, and we did leave with his Myspace info...who knows? Stranger things have happened.
I rested and laughed and cried and was honored to hear the stories of some amazing women. I've much to process, as I contemplate the forces and circumstances that have shaped these people with whom I worship and serve and learn. There's not a one who didn't bless me and teach me something during the course of the weekend.
I'm thankful for an opportunity to learn more about myself and to have made some new friends.
Not to mention just GETTING AWAY from the laundry and the kids and the driving and the cooking and everything else! It was a wonderful few days - just TOO few!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Valentine's Day 2008

In our house, Valentine's Day is a call for scrap booking supplies. The dining room table has been littered with paper, pens, glue pens and stickers for the past week. Syd made about 15 homemade cards for her friends. Shannon made a few cards, including a special one for Marshall. Sarah made a paper flip book for Elijah and handed out Dove chocolates to her friends.

I always make my own cards, too. Usually the kids awake to find the breakfast table set with cards and something special. Today, we waited until after school, since the boys got to spend Wednesday night with their dad.

So here's a glimpse of my cards; one for each kid, personalized, with a special note inside. I'm not sure they actually keep these cards, but I carefully date each one, just in case they look back 20 years from now and remember how creative their mom once was. Actually, it's not so much creative; just cheap. And creative.

The boys got argyle prints this year. I loved this paper, with a bit of glitter and a great pattern. The tag board letters were awesome, too.

Every gets a little gift as well; some sort of candy (chocolate for everybody but Sydni, who doesn't like chocolate. She got Jelly Bellies. The boys also got little Tech Deck skateboards (collector's edition!) and the girls got earrings.

Not a bad collection. I hardly have time to scrapbook anymore, but it's fun to spend an hour making cards.

Here's the beauty from the day - gifts and flowers from all over the place. It was a special day. After everybody returned home for the evening, they sent me on a scavenger hunt to find my gifts - more homemade cards and sweet sentiments. I'll share those later...

Happy Valentines Day to you!

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Ninjas From Ohio

We ate dinner with my folks tonight, which was nice. Odd that we had an evening where everybody was in one place, with no demands, commitments or traveling. Mom made homemade lasagna and homemade cheesecake (so much for reducing my caloric intake today) and we had a good time visiting.

Over dinner, I said, "Mom, I wanted to request a room at your Bed and Breakfast; I have some friends coming in town for the night. They're from Ohio. Can they stay here?"

"Oh, sure. Wait - from Ohio? Who is it?"

Shannon chuckled.

Mom looked at me with a moderate level of concern and interest.

"Are these the people from your blog?"

Sarah laughed maniacally.

"Yeah, mom met these people online and she's inviting them to stay with y'all. What if they're serial killers or something?"

Me: "I really don't think so. Have you seen their blog? Do they look like serial killers?"

Shannon chimed in.

"Mom, if they're killers, you ought to invite them to stay at our house, not murder Grandma and Grandpa."

David spoke up.

"What if they're pirates? That would be cool."

A stunned silence settled on the table as we looked at him and realized that he was, basically, completely serious. We stared at him for a moment, then he spoke again.

"Okay, not pirates then. But what if they're Ninjas? Now that would be awesome."

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Dinner Conversation At The Brawleys

Sarah worked tonight, which means she got a great in-house meal after her shift ended. The other four kids and I sat down to a not-very-inventive dinner of chicken strips, green beans and tater tots. (Sometimes you just gotta have a tater tot, you know? With ranch. That's the Texan in me...)


We had some general dinner conversation, skirting around school and friend issues. The weekend looks to be busy, with birthday parties, sleepovers, a school-sponsored dance, etc. We talked around a bit of that.

Suddenly, David started giggling hysterically. His laugh is contagious - he starts, and he can't stop, and pretty soon we're all laughing, too. I couldn't figure out what was so funny, until Daniel started snorting beside me.

"Look," he said. "My bean is pooping."

He was squeezing his whole green bean, watching the bean pods slip out the bottom onto his plate.



David was hysterically joyous, rocking from side to side in his chair, oozing that unique mirth that only comes from inappropriate bathroom humor.

Shannon rolled her eyes. "Sometimes I forget that my brothers are boys. And that boys can be stupid."

Daniel grinned.


Saturday, February 2, 2008

Saturday Night Live

I made chili for dinner. I cooked a lot; we fed the neighborhood!

Somehow, we ended up having a party of sorts tonight. Syd invited a friend; Sarah invited two friends; Justin, our adopted sixth kid, is staying with us, and everybody else is home for the night. Tomorrow is a special day at church - the service has a youth emphasis, both in the topic ("Generation Stress") and in the creative elements. Sarah is leading worship, along with a couple other kids. Syd, Justin and Shannon are all in a drama/pantomime that we'll do (you can see an example here. It's VERY powerful, if you're a believer...) I think they were compelled to invite their friends along, so they'll all sleep here tonight (please, God - lots of GOOD sleep! I already strongly encouraged them to avoid a 2:00 a.m. laughfest. Nothing gets me worked up as much as being awakened on a Saturday night...I am not a nice person at that hour!) and go on to church early in the morning.

Syd and E. made poppyseed muffins and a cake. E. is a great kid from a family a lot like ours; about a hundred kids milling about. Seriously, I think she has ten siblings. She's the one who can relate to the fact that we polished off an entire gallon of milk in one hour. E. is a little hesitant about church tomorrow; her family is Mormon, and this is her first worship service with us. We're just glad that they allowed her to stay over and go with Syd.

Justin and Daniel...we met Justin during soccer practice the first summer we moved here. Shell-schocked from divorce, the move, my dad's stroke and life in general, I was sitting on a hard metal bleacher, watching Shannon get acquainted with her teammates as we ventured into the social web of the recreational soccer league. Justin's adoptive mom was there, and we struck up a conversation. At 66, she had decided to forsake a cozy retirement and offer a chance at life to a homeless boy whose parents were unable to care for him. Shirley has turned out to be an amazing, inspiring friend, and Justin is growing into a terrific young man. We have been through a few trials - he came chock-full of baggage - but through it all, Shirley has perservered and we have stuck together. We are his 'second family'; he comes here on a regular basis, almost as part of his therapy. The opportunity to interact with 'siblings' has given him another perspective on life and family and relationships, and he gives us a great gift as he plays the part of 'big brother' to the boys and good friend to the girls. He calls me "Aunt Beth". Shirley - a single mom, at age 66 - gets a break when he's here, for which she is exceedingly grateful. I adore this kid and am so happy to see him succeed.

Sarah and A. have been friends for several years. The daughter of a local pastor, Sarah always felt like A. understood what it was like to be in a family that did ministry every day, all the time. She is hysterically funny and kind, and she always brings something to bake while she's here. It's very cool that her dad is open to letting her skip services at her own church to worship with us tomorrow.

Sarah worked today. She's just glad to be home now, hanging with her friends. One more showed up after dinner...

It's good to have a house full. They're loud, and they'll probably break something. They'll eat everything they can find and complain that they're still hungry. But they are so full of life, and they're safe, and all is well. I'm glad for a Saturday night at home...with my kids...

...and other people's' kids... Grateful for a pot full of chili and a lot of laughs.