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Monday, February 19, 2007

In All His Birthday Glory

Here is our number one happy one-year-old. He was certainly the man of the hour last Wednesday.

Gramma came on Tuesday to set things in order for the big day. His place at the table was highly festive complete with lots of presents, decorations and Valentine/Birthday frills.

That Gramma sure knows how to throw a party!


Then the celebration was on.
We fed him carrots and potatoes, sang to him, put his crown on his head, posed him with his birthday cake candle and snapped away.




The whole family was in agreement that if you are born on Valentine's Day, at the very least you should get one piece of chocolate with each meal...this Valentine's baby likes chocolate.
What can I say?
He sure is sweet!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Firsts


Note from the editor: I cannot get the cute pictures of Palmer to upload. I've been trying for four days. Keep checking back for photos of this cute, happy one-year-old.

First Birthdays...

Today is my baby's first birthday.

We've had a wonderful year full of firsts.

First glance...

That's when we fell in love.

First cry...

First feeding...

First bath...

First smile...

First laugh...

First roll over...

First sleep through the night...

First crawl...

First tooth...

First food...

First word...

First slobbery kiss...

First step...

This is just a short list of all the firsts we've had this year. If I go on I may be too sad to finish. I love babies and everything baby...everything. There are wonderful and amazing things about each age our children pass through. I love them all...but I love babies the best. Each first is a milestone...a steppingstone into his life and his destiny. I love witnessing that, nurturing that and being a part of that.


I am reminded of the ultimate first...

"We love because he first loved us." 1 John 4:19

I love walking this "first love" out with my children. I love them just because God loved me first. They don't have to earn it, deserve it or make it happen. I loved them before they were born and will love them unconditionally forever.

First love...

First birthdays mean bye-bye baby and hello more independence. Less holding and cuddling but not less sweet. Bye-bye to bottles and formula and nursing and baby food and hello to eating what the rest of the family eats. Bye-bye to newborn squalls and hello to communicating with more words.

I miss my baby...but I love my big boy who will always be my baby!

He still sucks his thumb, love his mommy and crawls like a soldier to a foxhole in combat.

He has a healthy appetite, eats with his thumb in his mouth and needs his regular sleep. He laughs at everyone he knows and knows everyone. He looks the best in red and keeps his shoes and hats on all the time...unless a big brother or big sister takes it off. His favorite food is green peas and his first word is Julia.

When he smiles he lights up my world. When I smile back he gives me a big squeal and a belly laugh. He's extremely easy-going and likable. Cuddling is one of his favorite pastimes especially when he's not too busy crawling and putting things in his mouth. He carries his toys in his mouth when he crawls.

He's too cute!

I look forward to experiencing many more firsts and many more Valentine's Birthdays...

Happy First, Happy Boy, Happy First!

Do-overs


If I had it to do over again, I'd do it all over again.

I'd wake up one Valentine's Day and realize that I missed Andrew and wanted to be with him the next Valentine's Day and every future Valentine's Day. That's how I spent Valentine's Day 1997. We were married in August of that year and have celebrated every Valentine's Day (and every other day) together since.

Dreams do come true!

I had gone home to my mom's house to go to a friend's wedding. While there, I realized that I should have invited Andrew. I missed him! I realized that I could be and was falling for him.

I realized that I wanted someone to do for me on Valentine's Day what he did for me all the time.

I loved it when he had sunflowers delivered to me because he listened when we passed a gift shop that had a zillion sunflowers inside it.

I loved it when he did things for me that I was too busy to do.

I loved it when he bought a Resurrection Week t-shirt to me when I was working at the mall and couldn't get one for myself.

I loved it when he bought me a gift certificate to get earrings because I lost one when we were at lunch the day before and I was upset about it.

I loved it when he bought a bag of Hershey's miniatures and put all the dark chocolates in my stocking at Christmas because he heard me say I liked it the best.

I loved it when he took me to an Elton John concert because he knew I loved the Lion King song, "Can You Feel the Love Tonight."

I loved it when he brought me red roses because they meant love and pink roses because they're my favorite color.

I loved it when he bought me a box of Valentine's chocolates because I had always wanted one.

I loved it when he surprised me with a Nora Jones CD because I think she's the most romantic singer ever.

I loved it when he "mailed" me a gift certificate to the mall because I took an online survey, thus quadrupling my spam emails, in a feeble attempt to win one.

I love all the other million things he does to surprise me that I'm not mentioning here.
I also love and appreciate all the things he's given up in order to be the husband and father God has called him to be.
He only plays basketball one night each week now instead of every night.
He no longer buys himself Cd's or DVDs on a regular basis.
He drives an older car than he'd like and doesn't have the freedom to shop as much he was accustomed to ten years ago.
Although he loves to travel, he's limited to a weekend get-a way to Galveston here and there and has grown to appreciate any special vacations that we may be fortunate enough to take.
He had the dream of retiring at 30 and now works long, hard hours each day even though 30 has come...and gone.
He truly embodies the definition of the one who possesses "no greater love."
"Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." John 15:13
Andrew has laid down his life today and every other day to support and love this lady and their precious family. With Jesus Christ as the ultimate example, he leads his family and lays down his life continuously for me...for us...his friends. I'm sure he would say every sacrifice has been worth it but every sacrifice has also been appreciated.
Not only do I appreciate the sacrifices made each day of the year. I value the surprises that come today as much as the surprises that came over ten years ago.

I know one of Andrew's favorite things about having children is experiencing the joy of surprising them. Just a regular trip to the grocery store can be unusually fun and exciting if he sees something that is a "perfect fit" for one of them.

Last week the children each got a huge stuffed animal for an early Valentine's present because he walked past the giant pink and purple unicorn that looked like Alyssa needed to own it.

I love this trait in the man I love...especially when I am on the receiving end of it!

He loves surprises. He says I always ruin them. I ask too many questions. Then I guess and guess until I guess the surprise. It doesn't matter if I know what it is or not...I love all his surprises too...lots.

This Valentine's Day I am thinking back to that Valentine's Day ten years ago and rejoicing that today I am not alone. I am giving thanks that today I am with Andrew and our family. I am remembering all the things that made me fall in love with him ten years ago and adding all the things he's done since then to the list.

I'm trying not to ask questions so that he can enjoy doing all the surprising. I'm trying to take a few lessons from him and do some surprising myself. However, he will always be the master of surprises and I a mere student.

I love how he's taught me that sometimes the joy of the gift is to learn to appreciate how hard the giver sought to make the gift a perfect match to you, its recipient. I love that he finds so much joy in giving. I love that I get to receive it.

I love surprises.
I'd do this all over again...wake up one Valentine's Day and miss Andrew.

I wonder what surprises are in store for this Valentine's Day...

Friday, February 09, 2007

Daddy Time

She needs time with her father.

That's what I told Andrew when Julia was about three-years-old. She was acting terrible. She was crying for attention and the attention I gave her wasn't meeting her need. So, I reasoned she needed time with her father.

At the time I was a bit frustrated with a 3-year-old, an eighteen-month-old and being pregnant-sick. Andrew offered to take Julia for breakfast at McDonald's. When Julia came home, she was a changed child...new and improved, at least behaviorally speaking.

I tucked this information away for future use.

I started to notice a trend. When Julia came home from spending time with Andrew, she was focused, quiet, respectful, peaceful. Saturday breakfasts have become a tradition in our family.


She needs time with her father.

The second the thought formed in my brain, I heard God's voice. She needs time with her father. "So do you," said God, "Time with your Father."

I remember being a child and feeling very special when my father spent time with me. My parents divorced when I was young and knowing my father would go out of his way to do special things for me went a long way.

Each year my Campfire Girl Club had a father-daughter banquet. My father was in the Army National Guard and every year he was gone to a training camp during this banquet. I always went with my grandfather. I was always grateful he wanted to take me. I always had fun. Even in the midst of the fun and celebration, I missed my dad.

One year my church had a Pioneer Girl Father-Daughter Hoedown. I was so excited. My dad would definitely be in town for this one. For one night I would get to be like all the other girls. I could go to a banquet with my dad. I would feel special and we would have fun. We did. It was a great party.

I still remember what we were wearing. I wore a green shaker-knit sweater and bluejeans. My dad wore a light blue oxford-style shirt, bluejeans and his ostrich boots. I was so proud!

This is one of my favorite growing up memories. I felt so special just being with my dad. I don't remember what we ate, what games we played or exactly what the program was about. I do remember being proud of my dad and feeling very loved and very special.

Tonight Andrew took Julia and Alyssa to the Children's Museum's Annual Daddy Daughter Dance.
We found perfect dresses. They looked beautiful. They were excited. It was a special occasion.


They got to get dressed up real fancy and beautiful. They got curled hair, high heels and lip gloss.


My prayer is that they feel like the special, wonderful, beautiful, worthy young ladies that they are.


They need time with their father.

They need time with their Father. I'm praying they see this at an early age...not just their need for salvation but their need for a relationship with God.

A living, active, two-way relationship full of communication, one deeply developed by spending lots of time together is vital to reaching our full potential, our calling, finding our passion in life. Only God can make that possible and make that happen.

A friend recently said that with our best friends everyday conversations aren't usually deep. They are just conversations that convey, "I'm here. I'm interested." Then when things get tough and we really need a friend, there they are. They know us and they've already made their lives available to us. We know they love us. Their love passes the test and the friendship is taken to a new level.

That's how it is with God.

I need time with my Father.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Long Tearful Goodbyes

Hyeong-Sook left today.

We just got back from the airport.

It was sad.

I can't stop crying.

My cheeks are wet. My Kleenex is wet. My hands are wet. My shirt is wet. My lap is wet. My computer is wet. My floor is wet. I can't stop crying.

Julia can't stop crying.

She's at school...crying.

When we left the airport, she asked, "Will we get to be here to pick them up when they get back?"

I had to say, "They're not coming back."

She started to cry too.

I was already crying.

She finally understood the tears.

They'll come back...but not soon enough.

Last Wednesday I went to the school to help Hyeong-Sook
with a goodbye party for her son.

It was sad.


We played at the museum together after school and ate cupcakes. We all knew this would be the last time we would do this together. We didn't think about it or talk about it.


It was sad.

Friday we played at the park. We hugged. We cried. Palmer wanted Hyeong-Sook, "Oma," his Korean mommy, instead of me. It was wonderful and it was sweet and it was sad. It was freezing cold, our hands were numb and our children had pink, frosty cheeks but we stayed for over two hours because we didn't want to say goodbye.


We couldn't without crying.


It was sad.

Hyeong-Sook presented me with one of her paintings. It's beautiful. Its meaning poignant. I can't look at it without crying. I can't look at it without crying. We hugged and hugged and cried and cried. When Hyeong-Sook said, "I love you, Lisa, you give me everything," I wept. I am weeping for my friend, my faraway friend.

It was sad.

We took some gifts over to them last night. We really just wanted an excuse to go and invade their empty apartment. We exchanged gifts. I just stood there in the dark apartment crying while our kids ran around screaming in the pitch dark, very empty apartment waving glow sticks. There were other people there, all saying good bye. I just stood there crying.

Julia painted a really special painting not too long ago. She wanted to give it to Hyeong-Sook. They also have a special relationship. Hyeong-Sook encourages Julia and pours out love and affection on her. Hyeong-Sook seems to know just how to make Julia feel really special. The painting is lovely...sunflowers on a table. It's one of my favorites. I know Hyeong-Sook will treasure it, from one artist to another, one painter to another; they share a special connection. I pray it will last over oceans, over continents and over time.

It was sad.

Jung-Woo is so excited to return to his home, to see his relatives and to sleep in his race car bed.

I am sad.

I am crying.

Alyssa and Hunter think we can go visit Korea after school next week.

Jung-Woo says, "It's okay, I'm coming back." I am crying.

Funny isn't it? Most of these posts are about time flying by, about my babies growing up way too quickly right before my eyes, about how I wish I could have one more hour, or second, or minute in each day.

Time can fly so quickly...a new line can appear on my face out of nowhere, my baby can turn one, or four, or six, or eight out of nowhere. I can wake up and realize I'm thirty-something out of nowhere. Time flies.

Time flies unless you're anticipating the future. Time flies unless you just got a bad haircut. Time flies unless you're fifteen-and-a-half learning to drive. Time flies unless there are only six months left until high school graduation. Time flies unless you're getting married next year. Time flies unless you're eight and a half months pregnant...or unless you're waiting to be reunited with a loved one. Time flies unless you want it to...then it drags.

I'm usually one to lament the too fast passing of time. Now I am eagerly anticipating the passing of five whole years.

That's when Jung-Woo is coming back. I don't think he realizes that he'll be ten- years-old, that unless they send lots of pictures I won't even recognize him.

Five years.

That's when international professors get to come to the United States to learn lots of smart things at our universities.

That's when my baby starts school.

That's when my oldest baby will be quickly approaching the teens.

That's when I will be living in another decade of birthdays.

Five years.

I'm praying for five years. I'm praying Hyeong-Sook comes back to College Station (or wherever I am in five years) instead of a different university town.

I'm praying that my family can visit hers in her homeland one day.

I'm praying I get to meet the family she spoke of so frequently and so fondly.

I'm praying when we see each other again it will be like no time has passed.

I'm praying our families get reacquainted quickly.

I'm praying for more than a few months together.

I'm praying.

Praying and crying.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Alyssa has a Blog!

Alyssa has a blog! She is quite good too.

Almost as good as and maybe even a little better than she is at painting her toenails...by herself...when she was supposed to be in bed. Well, she was in bed when she was painting them!

Then I see so much of myself in this...God asks us to obey Him and we do...sort of. The Bible tell us "Work hard and cheerfully at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people." (Colossians 3:23). If we are in the bed because we are supposed to go to bed but painting our toenails because we want them to be beautiful, we are working for ourselves...that's people...not God.

We are trying to learn wholeheartedness... to obey cheerfully, immediately and completely. The very best we can give is what we are required to give. This is being wholehearted.

The pull for beautiful toenails was just too much this one time. We explained how painting toenails is good and fun and beautiful but bed time meant that is was time to sleep in the bed.

Alyssa usually toes the line. She likes rules. She likes to follow them, enforce them and make sure others don't break them. I really think this was an honest, well, somewhat honest, mistake. After all, she plays with animals in bed, cuddles with them and sings to them; toenail polish is not that different.

She wanted her toenails to be beautiful and pink...just like her blog.

She had no problems telling me exactly what she wanted without ever looking at any other blogs or templates.

She definitely has likes...and dislikes!

She knows what she wants.

There's no one else like our sweet Alyssa! She's opinionated and lively...you should see her blog! It's all right there...the things she is.

"I praise you because (Alyssa is) wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well." (Psalm 139:14)

She has a very good grasp on who she is as a five-year-old. She can read. She's smart. She's beautiful, especially her hair. She loves animals. She loves the color pink. She can sing. She can dance. She can draw. She knows what she can do. According to her, the things she can't do yet...she'll practice. Right now, she's practicing basketball. She knows how to play but will have to actually practice throwing the ball into the hoop so she can make 100 baskets per game next year when she joins a team.

It really doesn't get much better than that.

She's our "Animal Angel" and she's blogging now.


Check out her blog!

It's totally Alyssa.

It's pink.

It's animally.

It's cute.

It's sweet.

It's Alyssa's blog.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Ground Hog's Celebration


Today is the anniversary of my first date with Andrew.

Thirteen years ago, we went to Olive Garden.

I talked him into trying angel hair pasta. He ate it all, I think. He didn't like it.
He never ate it again...still won't eat it.

I added bringing me flowers at the door, buying me dinners out and treating me like a special lady to the growing list of things I liked that Andrew did for me.

When we want to reminisce, Olive Garden is one place we go. It reminds us of a different time.

A time when we were just discovering our interest in one another.

A time when we didn't really know what we would talk about over dinner. Our greatest concern was when that photojournalism project was due and who the Aggies were playing on Saturday.

A time when we could stare at each other over silence, broken every now and then with a giggle... and that was perfect.

Now, there's a new Olive Garden. We can't go to the old one. We can't sit at that certain, special table and see the world once again from that young giddy person's point of view.

But, we can see the world from a mature, steadfast lover's point of view.

Now, we know what we'll talk about over dinner, if we get the chance. We have a whole life that we've built together. We must talk about the kids, the future, the office, the house, the car, the responsibilities, the obligations and eventually we get to talk about our hearts and how we're really doing.

I like life from this point of view.

Andrew jokes with me all the time that our first date was on Groundhog's Day because after that day I got scared and quit talking to him.

I think I was a little scared...scared of falling for him...scared of letting him really know me...scared of moving too fast...scared of lots of things.

Andrew has always been someone who knows exactly what he wants...and goes after it. This scared me.

I needed time to think...with no pressure.

I went into my little groundhog hole and thought, pondered and prayed.

When I came out...four years later...I was ready...ready to commit...ready to say yes.

Today I am thankful that Andrew always seems to know what he wants. I am thankful that he can take the world by storm...and win. I am thankful for his hard work, dedication and perseverance. I am thankful that he wanted me for his wife. I am thankful that I said yes. I am so thankful.

This groundhog won't see her shadow and hide anymore.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Long Distance Relationships


Today is my friend, Amy's birthday. (She's younger than I am.)

She is an amazing lady. She is an amazing wife. She runs a well-organized home. She has three wonderful children. She has a home based business. She runs a ladies' ministry. She's very creative. She stamps, scrapbooks and does many other artsy things.

She is truly the anchor, fabric and glue that holds her family together. She serves her family in such a way that they will surely rise up and call her blessed.

"Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all." (Proverbs 31:28-29)

She is this same type of friend. She is a loyal, supportive and encouraging friend. One who "loves at all times."

We have a very strange and wonderful relationship.

This relationship has included youth group choir trips, maids-of-honor, baby showers and letters of advice.

The thing about it is that almost the entire 18 years that we've been friends, we've done it long distance. We have rarely lived in the same city at the same time. Our entire friendship is based on long distance correspondence. There have been many letters and many phone calls.

When we met in high school youth group, we went to different high schools. We really weren't that far away from each other but in the school cafeteria it felt like a thousand miles.

This was before cell phones and emails. We had to do most of our early bonding between 8:00 and 10:00 at night before "phone curfew" kicked in and homework called. Different high schools meant that even when we attended sporting events we did so without each other. We would write each other notes at school and trade them with each other at youth group on Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights.

We met my senior year of high school. I was getting ready to graduate. I was excited to spend my last summer under my parent's roof with friends and saying good-byes.

Then I found out that Amy would be spending that whole summer studying abroad..Indonesia to be exact. I was devastated. This event, however; shaped the future of a lasting, meaningful and fulfilling long distance friendship.

We wrote each other regularly, religiously. The unspoken rule was you couldn't read a letter unless you could sit down and write one right back. We corresponded all summer. She said she felt like she was at home with everyone.

We continued this practice, reading, writing and sending, throughout college. No surprise, we attended separate colleges.

These letters were a highlight of my college experience. It was fun to check the mailbox because I could count on Amy. Even if no one else was writing...Amy would. These letters, chronicles of our lives, grew us and bonded us together.

Through letter writing I could a reveal a part of myself that may not have been as easily or as quickly revealed through face-to-face conversation.

During those early years of our friendship, there were no cell phones only long distance calls. Thus, we actually heard each others voices very infrequently.

Our universities happened to be fairly close to one another so we did see each other from time to time for lots of fun. We shopped, ate chocolate and watched Anne of Green Gables.

I loved knowing that no matter what life was holding out to me each day I had the chance to receive a letter from Amy. I loved knowing that she knew the deepest parts of me that I poured out to her in my letters and she loved me anyway.

Corresponding with Amy was an experience that has enriched and shaped my life in so many ways. It may have been here in combination with my journals that I first learned how to express myself on paper, how to really convey my heart through writing. These letters were always a way for me to stretch myself creatively as I attempted to entertain her with the stories of my life.

Now we have both grown into women with families. She now lives far away in another state. Her visits are few but very precious. Our children love each other like they see each other all the time. They pick up on our connection.

Amy's friendship is still a place I go to reflect. With young children, letters are rare, emails seldom and phone calls hurried; yet, we're still just as connected as we were 10, 15 or 18 years ago...maybe more.
Because we shared all our secrets with one another long ago, we can now connect instantly over the phone in the car with a baby crying. I love this. I am so thankful that she was a loyal, long distance, letter-writing friend. Immeasurable blessing has blossomed from those wrinkly, rice paper, air mail letters. Now, I love Indonesia.

I love Amy and I love our story.

Happy Birthday, my long distance friend. You're amazing! I love you!