Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The Man

Me, my handsome man, and my giant bug glasses heading into Lowe's for a bit of a birthday shopping spree.  Which, really, was not a spree at all since we didn't actually buy anything (except a refill of floor cleaner) but felt like a spree because we were looking at carpet and glancing at kitchen cupboards and thinking about paint colors and shelving and molding and fireplace tile and power tools and patio furniture and all the other things a magical place like Lowe's makes one think about.

Once upon a month or two ago it was my birthday, and also March Madness.

So we got all dressed up (Alder style of course) and headed out for a night out on the town.  Brian and his phone took me to the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art, which I had been eyeing for a year and a half.

It did not disappoint.  Currently, it's featuring an artist by the name of Yousuf Karsh who, if you're like me and not super familiar with things of this nature, is an incredibly accomplished and famous portrait photographer.  He has taken hundreds of portraits of the most famous men and women in the last century.  I wasn't sure how I was going to like the exhibit, to be honest, but it was absolutely incredible.  I don't know how he did it, but his pictures show life and passion.  60 of them are hanging in the Bellagio right this minute.  Pictures of people including Martin Luther King, Jr., Muhammad Ali, Albert Einstein, Audrey Hepburn, Fidel Castro, Helen Keller... it was inspiring.

Then we hung around downtown and ate the "Best Burger in Vegas" which was, I'll admit, a pretty dang good burger.  The best though?  Arguable.

I got lucky, you know.  Of course, at 20 years old I thought I was making a good choice.  I loved him and the future looked bright.  But how could I have known just how well this man would stay by my side and help actively lead our family to Today?  I love you, Bri.  You are a great man.  A great father, an incredible husband, a hard worker, a forgiving partner, and handsome all the way from the inside out.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Because: Friendship

A girl needs friends, you know.
Real friends.
The kind that laugh at your Totally Not Funny jokes,
And cry with your hurting heart.

The kind that can stand with you in comfortable silence as you watch the sea lions on the pier.
Or lie awake with you in the dark of the night to tell you her stories and listen to yours, engaging easily in conversation that finds minutes ticking into hours and more hours until the clock shows a time on its face that you haven't seen in a while.  Those conversations can be life-changing, you know.
Especially if your friend is inspirational.
Or understanding.
Or both.

A girl needs a friend who will get out of the car into the freezing rain with you just to see the ocean.

Or who patiently waits while you stop to capture the beauty of that rain, because she understands deeply enough to know that your desert eyes crave this water.

I miss these ladies with a deep part of my soul.  These are the ladies I met in North Carolina, and many of us built our habits of mothering together.  They were my examples during those crucial, early years when everything about motherhood and running my own family was new and nothing was set.  These are the women who came with suggestions and advice. Strong women who love God and respect people and speak lovingly of their husbands and children even when they admit that times are tough.

Between the countless informal gatherings throughout my nine years in North Carolina, we always met formally, once a month, in what we called Book Club. It was a book club, to be sure... but it was so much more.  It was a night that was so fun and enlightening and therapeutic and deep and rich that we would look forward to it all month, and then stay well after midnight once we were there.

We knew even then that it couldn't last forever... eventually, Time came along and started breaking us apart.  Husbands finished their schooling and relocated all across the country, taking the pieces of our book club with them.

We missed it.  We missed each other and we missed the strength that came when we were together and we couldn't bear the thought of our book club disbanding even though we were scattering across the country.  So, we started a new tradition.

A biennial, destination book club.

Santa Rosa, California was the destination this year. The date was chosen, flights were booked, and dear friends from all around the country began their journeys to a single home.  The green, garden home of Martha.

Five of us (me, along with Melissa, Amy, Cami, and Kim) met in San Francisco a day early and toured the city together.  It was wet.

But we didn't mind. We held our umbrellas and rung our socks at the end of the day.

The five of us booked a small apartment on a steep hill and somehow managed to cram two queen sized blow up mattresses into the cozy living area. They took the entire floor so that there was no path to the bathroom, but pregnant Amy promised that she would try her best not to step on any heads in the middle of the night. We talked and talked and talked that night. The kind that changes you.

The following morning we awoke and got ready for our day while blasting Adele songs from Melissa's phone. It felt like college, but better.  Better because we are better and stronger and wiser than we were then.

It was wet still, but after our morning brunch we walked anyway.  The Golden Gate Bridge still stands in the rain, you know.  Eventually, the four women I was with were ready to travel north up to Santa Rosa, so I stayed behind by myself for an hour to wait for two different friends who were on their own way to Santa Rosa and would soon pass through San Francisco.  I loved the time alone as I often do.

But was thrilled to jump (quickly) into the car when Katie and Cindy arrived (pulled over on the side of a busy road in an area that was obviously not meant for passenger pick up).  We had much catching up to do ourselves, and wasted no time diving into a heart bearing conversation.  The kind that changes you.

We made it to Martha's and spent a delightful day on the rainy, wet beach.

But, as you know, any day on the beach is a great one for me.  Even rainy ones.

And days on rocky beaches?  Even better.

There was one scare when, just after I took the following picture, a wave came barreling in and completely covered the rock I was standing on.  Rocky beaches are beautiful, but they can be a bit scary if you're worried about being carried away into those rocks.  The picture ended up being worth soggy shoes, though.

Part of me wished I had brought my big camera along, but the other part of me was so darn thrilled at the easiness of carrying my camera phone right in my pocket and not worrying about the lenses hitting the jagged rocks, or getting sprayed with ocean water.

Plus, I do love the wide angle my camera phone has. 

I don't have a wide-angle lens, and couldn't really get a shot like this one anyway with my big camera.

I think my favorite scenic part of this vacation was watching the wind spray the water off the crests of the waves.  Apparently that's called spindrift.  

It was a vacation full of beauty.  Beautiful people, beautiful conversations, beautiful scenery, beautiful love.  We spent two nights at Martha's discussing the books we had chosen (Okay, for Now and Boys in the Boat and The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up) and all other things that came to our minds.  And towards the end of the second evening, Melissa pipped up: "I'm not going to bed until someone cries."  We laughed, but it shined a beautiful light into the friendships that we have with each other.  We want to know the good, we want to know the fun and the excitement and the daily events of each others lives... but we also want to know the sad.  The real.  The messy.  We want to know because we care.  "Tell us the last thing you cried about," Melissa continued.

The night did end with some tears.  Some real.

I didn't sleep much for those three days. There was too much to listen to.  Too much to learn, too much to talk about.  Consequently, I came home exhausted. 

But so, so happy.

Until next time Durham Diaspora!

Diaspora: (n) a group of people who live outside the area in which they had lived for a long time.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Scrambled Thoughts XVI

*We have decided that duck poop is not something we'd like to make part of our backyard landscape.

Call us picky, but we seem to be having a problem.  Can you see it?  Let me zoom in a little closer for you:

There.  Now can you see it?  Or, them, I should say?  In the pool?  We have been chasing these ducks out of our pool all spring long (which has been a while since spring here starts early) and they haven't really gotten the hint that they are most unwelcome here. I don't mean to be inhospitable, and generally I do love to entertain guests, but most of my other guests have a rather more advanced skill of keeping their poop out of our pool and surrounding pool decks (and I do mean most.  But we won't get into that story).

I have given the children the green light to do anything they'd like to scare them away once noticed (besides throw rocks - I'm not cruel) and I believe Carson's favorite method involves his Nerf gun.  Our ears have become highly sensitive to the quacking of the ducks, and whenever we hear it we jump to action as if it were a war siren.  Which, softly, I suppose it is.

*The cub scouts Blue and Gold Banquet this year did not go well.  For me.

Because I'm weird.  And those of you who know me well might be able to guess what is coming simply from the picture above.

It all started at a planning meeting a couple of weeks before the event:
Cubmaster Dave: Okay, this is what I'm going to do... I'm going to blow up a hundred blue and gold balloons, set one on each chair, and then right at the start of the meeting I'll tell everyone to take their balloon and sit on it - then I'll say, "I wanted to start off with a bang!"
Me in my head: ... ... ... ... Liiiiiiiiinds, these people don't know you well enough yet for you to display your irrational fear of balloons.  Force a smile here... hurry, it's getting awkward...
Me out loud: Ohhhhh!  That is such a great idea!  That's so funny!  Oh, everyone will just laugh! Ha! Cool! So funny...
Me in my head: Okay, you need to back off, you're sounding forced.
Me in my head: I know! But... balloons!  INTENTIONALLY popping!
Me in my head: Just keep your cool.
Me in my head: Popping against METAL chairs, no less!
Me in my head: You can step out for a second when they pop.
Me in my head: METAL!
Me in my head: Don't worry about it yet.
Me in my head: The AMPLIFICATION of a hundred balloons popping against METAL!
Me in my head: Shhhhhh..... there now....
Me in my head: I don't like this idea at all.
Me in my head: I know...
Me in my head: I'm so weird.
Me in my head: I know.

I was right to panic, by the way.  It was very awful. I did step outside during the 'opening bang' (and I do mean outside) but not every balloon, as you might imagine, was popped during that time... which left lingering, startling pops ringing through the gymnasium at any given second throughout the remainder of the night.  Also, how inadequate is the word pop?  I'm not sure what a good replacement word could be, but surely there is something a little more dramatic than pop.  Anyway, I might have left right after Carson received his awards but for two reasons: I was a little bit in charge, and also had been asked to take pictures during the event. And in order to take pictures, you might imagine, I had to actually be there.

By the time the evening was wrapping up, I had enough adrenaline running through my body that it felt like little needles had replaced my blood.  This caused me to become quite jittery and I jumped at the slightest sound of a footstep or a baby's cough.

Hanging on by a fraying thread, eventually I did just leave.  I looked at Brian (who knew, bless his heart) and we communicated to each other without words through the chaos of the party that I was going to go.  I rushed out to the car and barely shut the door before the tears started falling.  TEARS, you guys!

Stupid balloons.

I'm cool now, though.  Everything's just great.

*Wanna know why else everything is great?  Because we have a house stocked with toilet paper.

If you don't think this is really great, then you probably don't run out of toilet paper much.  Don't get me wrong... we try not to make a habit of it buuuuuuuut, it happens.  And, no, I did not buy all of this toilet paper.  Just one package.  But one package is enough when you didn't have much to begin with.

*Whether shopping for toilet paper or milk, this little guy is fun to be with.

Mostly.  He's also very difficult to reroute and if I let him out of the cart to walk through the store he gets his heart set on Things We Don't Need and it's nearly impossible to talk him out of it.  So he ends up in tears and I end up the bad guy who always says no.  Seriously, why can't he ask for a bright shiny apple or a stalk of celery?  I might say yes to that, ya know.  But Go-Gurts (what he is enraptured by in the picture above) just aren't really my thing.  Sure, they're kid-delicious and quite handy... but the sugar content looks a little like 'dessert' in my book, and the price just isn't something I'm comfortable with.  I'm a total hypocrite though, because I do buy packages of fruit snacks and dish them out as if they were actual fruit. Soooooo....

Anyway.  On a quiet day like the one pictured above, I don't mind the meandering quite so much and I sure do love the sweetness he adds to the minutes of my days.

*Looking out my bedroom window is a favorite.

For Teek and for me.  There really is so much beauty outside that window... beautiful skyscapes, jagged mountains, and happy children at play every spare minute.

The neighborhood kids come over to play in the mornings about 15-30 minutes before they all leave for school.  As I'm cleaning up breakfast or tidying my bedroom I can hear them... anywhere from two to eight children playing ball, riding scooters and bikes, playing make-believe.  It's one of the very best parts of my whole day.  I hate to break up the party, but the clock ticks on and eventually it's time for me to sound the Time to Go or You'll Be Late for School alarm.  Then, in a flash, backpacks and helmets are collected from all around the yard, and I watch them speed down the driveway for school.

After school, my kids have about 30 minutes to do their homework before the doorbell starts ringing again.  I don't even answer the door.  Like, ever.  Because it's always for one of the kids... and they know it and are happy to run through the house to invite whoever is on the doorstep to join in the fun.

*My kids are so happy.  

They have a freedom here - and I see so much fertile ground for the experiences they are having to take root and become memories that they will treasure for a lifetime.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Walking through Spring

The weather has been gorgeous lately.  Springtime in the desert is long and beautiful. The temperatures hover in the 60's and 70's under clear, blue skies.  Or, on a happy day, under dynamic skies painted with clouds in all shapes and sizes.  My children know I love the clouds... why, just days ago Carson came running in from the backyard and said, "Hey mom!?  Wanna come out and see a really beautiful cloud?"  He knew my answer would be yes, and I plopped the raw chicken down and washed my hands just as fast as could be to go and take a look.  I do love those days.

But, cloudy or clear, springtime is just perfect for family walks.

And when I look hard enough, I can see that life is growing just fine.

I do love the way the sunshine peeks through the branches and shines through the baby leaves on a newly sprung tree.

One day as we were walking down the road, we saw a big dirt spiral out near the mountains in the distance.  It was quite remarkable, actually, and rather beautiful, too.

Traveling along that same road, we approached the backside of our back fence and found there to be a small tower of bricks precariously placed so that a child might use them to hop the fence into our backyard.  A small smile crept across my face and I felt happiness in my heart at the thought of the children building such a tower for the purpose of coming in and out.  Occasionally from my windows I'll see a small neighbor's head pop up over that back fence.  That small head is checking to see if there are any children at play back there, you see, and if the answer is yes you can be sure that the precariously placed tower of bricks will be used to hoist another body up and over.

I thought about re-stacking the bricks... or even buying a little stepping stool with which to replace them.  But in the end, I feel like the precarious tower of bricks is too much a part of the beauty.  Beauty in the thought through solution of a child's problem.  A beauty, in general, of childhood.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Mom-ing Together

Friendship is important to me.  Maybe you think that is a lame thing to say because friendship is important to everyone.  But still.  Friendship is important to me.  And one of the cool things about having friendships as adults is that, generally, each girlfriend is packaged together with a whole bunch of people that they call husband and children... so when one girlfriend comes to visit, she might bring that whole package of friends with her to mix and blend with mine.  This always makes my house feel very full and happy.

Filling out NCAA brackets.  Yes, this was in March, but who's counting?

The Birdnos came to visit from Arizona for their spring break.  Merrill had a conference here in Vegas and, since it paired with their kids' spring break, would have made a family trip to visit seem like a no brainer under normal circumstances.  But, in this case, the circumstances were not very normal, as poor 13-year-old Mikayla was scheduled to have a tonsillectomy just a couple of days before Merrill's conference.  So, Cami put me on alert a couple of weeks before and said that, as long as Mikayla was feeling up for it, they would be here to play.

I'm not quite sure exactly how 'up to it' Mikayla was feeling, but they came! And we made a nice bed on the couch right in the middle of the fun for her to rest and heal, yet not miss out.

Brian and Merrill were both gone throughout the days, but Cami and I are mom-pros and handled the 10 children on our own just fine.  It was a different sort of reunion for us, though... generally when we get together, we like to Go and Do throughout the days - but with Mikayla in her post surgery state, we were rooted to the home and I got to spend time with Cami as we both filled our roles of mother.  I helped my kids with homework and made dinner while she answered the call of her alarm to give Mikayla more medicine.  We toweled off freezing kids from the pool, and we covered tiny scratches with band-aids.  We filled hungry tummies and brushed hair and fielded arguments and, just when we were getting into a good conversation, would be interrupted to do it all over again.

This water was quite cold.  And the air wasn't much better.  But peer pressure can be a powerful thing, you know.

I always love watching Cami be a mom... her patience with the kids' unceasing requests, her love for their sweetness, her laugh at their cuteness.  She is a worker and her work is her children.

We were able to get away for a short while, though, and Cami took me up in the mountains to introduce me to one of her favorite things: mountain biking.

I loved it.  Being out in the mountain air, feeling the sun on my skin, breathing hard and deep as I pedaled up the mountain climbs, learning to trust my bike and, best of all, being with one of my very best friends.  We laughed and talked and cheerfully solved our way out of being lost. 

Cami is such a great friend.

The last night they were visiting, we popped a pizza in the oven for the kids, set up a party outside, and then left them all to fend for themselves.

We adults drove into Henderson and had our own, grown up dinner (read: no pizza), and had some heart-healing conversations about life and faith and friendship.  We are so lucky to have the Birdnos in our lives and can't wait till they come visit again!

Monday, May 9, 2016

Picture the Family

"Mama, can you take my picture like dis?" he asked.  Why, of course, little one.

"Mama, why did you take my picture like that?" she asked.  Well, because, beautiful... you looked so grown up I couldn't stand to let you grow one more minute without capturing it.

"Mama, do we have to stand here?" they asked.  Well, yes. Because it's the middle of the afternoon and this is the only spot I can find where the harsh light will not interfere with your beautiful faces.

"Mama, do you want a shot of my booty?" he asked.  Of course.  Because that will help me remember how goofy and fun you are.

"Mama, I'm tired of pictures and I'm going to start taking my shirt off, little by little, until it's all the way off and then you can't take any more pictures at all," he said.  Well okay, we'd best get a family one in quickly then.