Rachael and Kyle had their baby last night. Meet Pius-Vasyl Assumptio Wirachowsky. I don’t think he could have a more Catholic Ukrainian name had they tried. Pius is after Popes Pius the 10th and 12th, godly popes they admire. Vasyl is after a Ukrainian priest martyred for his faith. Assumptio is for Mother Mary as August contains the feast day of her assumption. Welcome to our world Lil’ Pius. I think we’ll celebrate tonight by having perogies and sausages for supper.
I'm so thankful for Atlas and the things God has done in our lives, and especially in Deborah's life, through his life. God is so amazing, way beyond what we can think or imagine.
She was the sweetest child who gave us nothing but delight. Then adolescent years hit and she went off the rails so bad we didn’t know if she’d survive - and I’m speaking very literally. God be praised, He sent her little Atlas. We were so scared, afraid of how the drama would play out. God used Atlas so powerfully. She got clean and sober and began the work of putting her life together. Now we once again have the incredible Deborah back. She is strong, stronger than we ever knew she could be, funny, a devoted mother, a student of the Bible, a leader, generous, empathetic beyond compare, and just generally a most delightful soul.
I’m so thankful she survived. My world would be radically less bright without her in it. Thank you, Jesus. Happy birthday to my darling Deborah.
Thirty-five years ago today a little bundle just over 8 ½ pounds gushed into my world. My life was changed forever. I was only 19 and had spent nine long months hating my life. Pregnancy was the last thing I wanted, and I was convinced I’d ruined my life. In early pregnancy the thought of an abortion comforted; I imagined it a solution. I received a poem from someone – who knew nothing of my situation – and one of the lines of the poem was “I want this day to bring good, not evil.” Somehow, even though I had a hard heart and a thorough hatred for my situation, that line spoke to me and I knew I couldn’t abort her. I still loathed my circumstances and spent the remainder of the pregnancy hoping for a miscarriage. When a miscarriage didn’t come, I hoped for a stillbirth. The darkness in my soul was profound and had I had the courage, I would have committed suicide. There was not a fiber in my being that wanted to be a mom.
Imagine my shock when they laid that squirming warm body on me and I was immediately head-over-hills in love. I still had more emotional issues than I could shake a stick at, but one thing was certain: I was madly in love. I had no words to articulate my thoughts, but I knew I wanted something better for Stephanie than I presently had to offer. I know now that those thoughts were a prayer. God took those thoughts – which I couldn’t even unravel into words – and drew me to Him. I didn’t have a clue how to start, but that’s when my journey to God began. Since that day 35 years ago, my journey with God has sustained me through everything. I’ve committed horrible, grievous sins, but God has never shaken me off. Journeying with Him is what gives my life meaning.
So today, when normally I’d want to wish my sweet baby Stephanie a simple Happy Birthday, I wanted to share something a little deeper. My crisis 35 years ago turned into the greatest watershed moment of my life. It turned into one of the greatest blessings and sources of joy in my life.
For those who have had an abortion, I do not judge you. I say everything I’m saying not to condemn those who’ve had abortions, but rather to extend hope to those who find themselves in that situation now or in the future. Because of Stephanie, the topic of abortion is personal. Where would I be without her? She changed the trajectory of my life. I cannot imagine this world without her; the good she’s done, the life she’s chosen, the lives she’s touched . . . My crisis passed and nobody had to die. If you find yourself in a crisis, please know, it will pass. It may be excruciatingly difficult, but no one needs to die. Choose life.
Happy birthday, my darling Stephanie. Thank you for letting me share a bit of our story. I love you.
When we learned we were expecting Rachael, I was not in a good emotional place. Getting pregnant seemed like the least logical thing in the world and it definitely was not something we would have chosen. God saw things differently.
Shortly after learning I was pregnant, I read in Psalm 30, "You have turned my mourning into dancing." Rachael's life infused my sorrowing heart with joy. I'm so thankful for God's kindness in doing that. To this day, 24 years later, I cannot read that verse, "you turned my mourning into dancing," without thinking of my sweet Rachael. God used her so powerfully to restore my joy and purpose.
She was a most delightful child and gave us joy beyond measure. Then she became a teenager, . . . and I went back into mourning as she participated in nearly every bad choice available. Thankfully, God once again turned my mourning into dancing as he worked so powerfully and beautifully in her life.
Recently I revisited Psalm 30 where it says, "you have turned my mourning into dancing," and realized it is the same chapter that says, "weeping may endure for the night, but joy comes in the morning." Rachael's teenage years caused lots of tears, but I'm grateful that that season of weeping is over as we've seen her embrace our Lord and Saviour Jesus with great joy.
I will always think of Psalm 30 as Rachael's Psalm. First, he used her to turn my mourning into dancing, and then he used her to teach me that after the weeping he once again brings joy. I'm so grateful for the Word of God and how it can speak to my heart so powerfully and personally. And I'm forever grateful for the His awesome gift to me, Rachael Christine.
We have a precious new grandson, born July 16. Buddy (Atlas Rigel) weighed 7.14. Deborah let me watch him gush into our world and then cut the cord. We’re all enchanted and Deborah is doing well. She is madly in love with him and he is madly in love with her. I am very in love with both of them.
We've been blessed again! Hannah and Darian have given us a new grandson. Ambrose Basil joined the family on July 20, 2018, sharing a birthday with his Auntie Rachael. He weighed . We are so blessed!!
His name, oh my, is his name ever strong! Two saints, Sts Ambrose and Basil, please pray for our little Ambrose Basil. May he become a holy man like you.
St Ambrose, bishop, was St Augustine's mentor. Both men were theologians and left tremendous legacies in the church. I'm believing the same for my little grandson, Ambrose. May he become a mighty man of God.
Today is Rachael's 22nd birthday. How she blesses us. She is prayerful, worshipful, and studious. She has a great personality, is funny, and comfortable in her own skin. She has a beautiful smile, is ambition, sows into the lives of others, and is not ashamed of the gospel. She is herself, never trying to be someone else. I love her so much.
We are so excited to meet this precious bundle.
This is my July 12 in '12 collage. As I wrote here, for the remainder of the year I am journaling each month in picture. This picture is loaded with signficant and meaningful stuff irrespective of how insignificant it looks.
1. St. Francis of Assisi is one of the great mentors in my life. I read something in late June that sparked a desire to re-read some of the things I've read on this great man. I wanted to rekindle some of the truths that I learned from him. In July I re-read these books.
2 and 11. These pictures are from Deborah's 13th birthday. I officially have 3 teenage daughters.
3. Hannah found this kitten near 7-11. It was meowing and she looked down at her feet to discover him there. She brought him home and nursed him back to health. This picture was taken after we had him over a week. He was tiny and had already filled out by the time this picture was taken. It is pitiful that something so small was all alone in the world. Hannah named him Haze and was diligent caring for him. He temporarily softened her heart and since we were desperate for Hannah's heart to be softened, it was a no-brainer that we keep him. He was much work though -- I think he was blind and he meowed nearly constantly. Hannah soon tired of the job and I took him to the Humane Society where I figure he found a good home. But for the short time he was with us, he touched us with his helplessness and his ability to soften a young girl's heart.
4. In June I went to a seminar and heard the benefits of giving up grain products. I checked some Paleo lifestyle books out at the library and on July 1 started eating the way a Paleo enthusiast would. It has now been 36 days of having no junk food, no fake food and no wheat products. Bonus, I lost several pounds in July.
5. This picture of Hannah was taken a few days before going into PChAD. In this picture, although it's a fine picture, the subtleties of her expression reveal her hardness of heart.
6. I love summer and I love my little container vegetable garden.
7. While in PChAD, Hannah resumed her former love for painting. She painted four pieces while there. It blessed my socks off to see her embracing a former love. It's probably been a year since we've seen this side of her.
8. Deborah has had nearly two good months of not cutting. However in July she had a huge upset and she cut again. I'll be sharing some big news on that front very soon.
9. Casanova!, what a cool cat. One day I came home for lunch and found him on top of the cabinet. I couldn't be mad, it was too cute. However, when I came home in the late afternoon, the cow, which was a gift from Stephanie, was shattered on the floor. Casanova was still on top of the cabinet.
10. This is the Alberta Alcohol and Drug Abuse Commission (AADAC) sign that hung outside of Hannah's safe house for the PChAD program.
11. Here's Deborah with her 13th birthday cake.
12. This isn't just a silly vain picture of my hand. There's some significance here. When Hannah's behaviour started getting erratic and volatile, I read her diaries to try to determine the extent of her drug problem. One thing I read in her diary was how she hates her fingernails and wished they were prettier. I realized that was something I could help her with. I have never tended to my nails with affection, but when I read that I decided I'd begin to stock our home with nail supplies and offer to keep her nails manicured. And I have. As a byproduct of this commitment, my own nails have gotten lots of babying too. This is the first time I've ever worn red fingernail polish. I feel eccentric.
Due to the overwhelming sales of my book, I'm working on volume two. The previous line is of course baloney. Stacie, mocking my sales numbers, said, "I better hurry and get mine before they're all sold out."
I am seriously working on volume two. In the process I ran across these sweet greetings I received many moons ago. You all know I'd rather walk on my lips all day long than toot my own horn. But these are too sweet not to toot up a little. So picture me walking on my lips as you read these toots I received for my birthday several years back. Yeah, I should have waited till I had a birthday to share them, but I was just so overwhelmed with the feely-goodies than I wanted to share them RIGHT NOW.
"Happy Birthday, Valerie.
You always write such eloquent birthday tributes to those you love and this simple greeting seems so pale in comparison.
What do I love about you: You have the most wonderful humor. You can make me laugh like no other and you laugh with me so whole heartedly. Your writing is so fun to read because it can make me laugh though you are so subtle in the effort. I'm so impressed.
You are a great listener. Truly. You don't interrupt (like me) and I always feel like you really hear. Poor souls that have no one to listen. You listen to me blab on about what I made for dinner, what I wore to work, all the places I went, blah, blah, blah. Wonderful.
You are a willing learner. I mean, you've learned to sew, candle make, quilt make, cake decorate, genealogy sleuth, write, etc? You do it with gusto and competently. I stop before I start because I know I can't be an "expert".....
You are humble. Yes, you are and no, you haven't always been.
You share freely and graciously your mistakes, mis-judgments, hurts, pain, embarrassments, social errors, mis-steps, etc. There is something "freeing" about it when you share your confessions so honestly. God bless this trait.
You are a wonderful sister. I love you so much and I am so blessed to have such a dear dear friend and confidant. You are important to me and I miss you ever so much. Happy birthday, Stacie"
And then, lo and behold, my sister Diane wrote:
"My favorite thing about you is how much fun you are and how easy you laugh. I was thinking about this today, and I've decided that we Callahan kids enjoy ourselves like no others. I mean literally; we enjoy OURSELVES. I enjoy me, you enjoy you, etc., etc. No one laughs harder at our funnies than we laugh at our own. That's the mental picture I got when I was thinking about you today. I could see you making a funny comment and then slapping your knee real hard and laughing boisterously! I laughed just thinking about it (because that's what we do; we laugh at ourselves).
You and I have had soooo many fun times laughing at ourselves and at each other. Do you remember the time we were at the motorcycle rally in Colorado and a guy walked off after talking us near-comatose? Before he was out of earshot, you turned to me and said, "He bores me."
I could go on and on, but you have already written about most of our funniest times, so mine would be redundant and not near as entertaining. You are a great writer. I always laugh out loud when I read your blog.
On a serious note, I appreciate how transparent you have become. You used to protect yourself at all costs, but you have become very vulnerable and "real." I truly appreciate that, but especially since I know how hard it must have been for you.
I remember vividly the day you were born. Do you remember how much I doted on you when you were a little girl? I know, I know, you remember what a witchy older sister I was, but maybe in the recesses of your mind, you can conjure up a memory of when I used to call you "To-Val." Strange nickname, I know, but it was my pet name for you.
I love you and wish you the very happiest of birthdays. Diane"
(Twins, Aunt Jill and Mama)
"I love you because you are funny. I love you because you are articulate. I love you because you are intelligent. I love you because you so obviously love me! I love you because you are strong.I love you because you are warm and supportive. I love you most of all because you are you! Jill"
Beautiful. I had all I needed for days and days of high spirits.
You know how I hate talking about myself. Ok, so that's a lie. But you know how it's so much cooler if someone else toots your horn rather than you tootin' you're own? Here's my rootin' tootin' niece Mindi tootin' me up:
"Valerie, I know that you cannot know what you mean to me. As a child I always felt a bond to you because I was often told that I was so much like you. Little did I know, that the adults in my life were referring mostly to negative traits that we had in common, namely stubbornness. As an adult, I still feel a close bond to you, and now it is because there are traits that I see in you that I admire and want to develop in myself. I admire you as a mother and a wife. I admire your commitment to your marriage, and your commitment to raising your children to be kind people. I admire your skills in the domestic life you lead, as well as the way you push yourself to try new things all the time, even if those new things lead to "butthole roses" in a cake decorating class. I admire your transparency. It is ever so humbling to admit our shortcomings. If you are anything like me, humility is not our strong point. I appreciate your open mind, and for proving that you CAN teach an old dog new tricks. I in no way think you are old or a dog, but I can't think of a better metaphor. Who would have thought that a little country girl from Arkansas, would grow into a tree-hugging, Wal-Mart boycotting Canadian. (All said in jest, of course.) I do admire you Valerie, and love you dearly. I hope your birthday is fabulous. *ching ching*
When the goodness was just too much to imagine anymore, my sweetheart added this to my day's blessings:
"I love you because you hung on. It has not been easy, but you kept getting up each morning and caring as you could, without going anywhere. I love you because you have learned through much pain to adjust to my weaknesses without kicking back. I love you because you keep trying new things, even when the last thing didn't work out like you planned - including things between us. I love you because you love our kids, and do your best to bring out their best, even after they have annoyed you into temporary isolation. And, I love you because you kept on laughing at my weird, silly, and sometimes asinine comments, and then went and cooked a meal or did the laundry or just prayed for all of us. I guess if you get right down to it, I love you because in spite of how life works out sometimes, you have been faithful to me, our kids, our life together, and our common Lord, in big and small ways, even when it was the hardest thing in the world for you to do. And I'm thankful to God for it. Will you be my Valentine, Valerie? Love, Gordon"
That day was a most glorious birthday. I don't think I've ever received so many kind words. I was truly blessed that day and re-reading them today, I was blessed all over again.
Thanks for listening as I tooted.
I am very very behind on this. Hannah turned 14 in August. Her birthday always gets the short end of the stick around here. No matter how often I tell myself it won't happen, it does. Even her "birthday post" is weeks overdue. The poor dear.
She turned 14 on August 22.
These pictures are a few sweet reminders of her little life.
(See how ugly she was. 1996) If they hadn't taken her straight from my body and laid her on my chest, I would not have believed she was mine. I would have said, "This isn't my child. I have cute babies." But I was there. She is mine. I was awed once again by a new baby, but this time I lovingly said, "Awww, she's so ugly."
Thankfully she started cutening up several months later. It was acutally quite a few months before she was truly cute. But she was precious all along. She had no choice but toughness. With a sister just 13 months older, she was the brunt of all Rachael's experiments - including be drawn on with marker and pen regularly.
But by one year old, she was genuinely very cute. She had lovely long hair but wanted a hair cut. She was just as cute with short hair.
(2 years old, 1998)
Then she was in school and losing her first tooth.
It wasn't long before she was in grade 4. She was tender kind and sensitive. She loved animals more than any thing. She read her Bible, wrote in a little prayer journal. She was a true seeker. She was delightful.
Now she's an independent 14 year old. She can be super crazy and high energy. She reads lots and enjoys art. She's growing up too fast. She has abandoned all things cute. Recently she started rejecting all those cute things in her room -- storing them away or just getting rid of them. It's sad. She's saying goodbye to those cute things and opting for more teenager ways of decorating. Strangely, I never expected that of Hannah. The other kids yes, but I thought Hannah would stay the Hannah I knew. I don't really know who Hannah is. She was the one I thought I understood best, now I don't understand her at all.
But my love stands firm. I'm still trying to understand her likes and dislikes but having a real hard time nailing it. I wouldn't consider buying her clothes or anything else nearly. For her birthday I gave her a shopping spree -- took her out on a shopping trip and didn't like anything she bought. I tried to get in her brain just to see if I could. I picked out a couple blouses, she was mortified by my taste. So I just relinquished the effort.
She's the subject of much prayer. There's a wall between us. She doesn't like me and I'm not scaling that wall very successfully. But I love her with everything in me.
Hannah I hope this year is a great year for you. I love you so much.
(2009, 13 years old)
She was nearly perfectly content. The only exception was Sundays. For the child who was to become my social butterfly, it's strange that church provided too much stimuli in her early days. She was cranky and unsettled every Sunday till we were home from church. As soon as she and I were in our living room in the rocking chair, she was back to her easy disposition. She was an easy baby to mother.
We thought we were going to adopt little Shawny boy. His departure from our home was traumatic and painful. Deborah would have been a terrific big sister. We fostered several babies younger than her and she was wonderful with each one.
When Shawn left, Deborah talked about the social worker often. She had a broad vocabulary and talked with ease. During this time period, one of her big conversations was about Shawn's social worker. "Patty Jo is a very mean person. She was bad to take Shawn." It was a twisted time in our history. I wasn't doing well emotionally, which precipitated Shawn's leaving. When he left, I sank to deep depths of guilt. Not Deborah. Without a doubt, Patty Jo was ALL to blame for Shawn's departure. She grieved deeply, too.
We were camping last week, as has happened several times for her birthday. I picked up a cake and we celebrated at the campsite.
It was low key, but was warmly received by my little 11 year old.
Deborah, your life has made mine fuller and richer. I love you. Happy 11th Birthday, my love.
Today is Stacie's birthday. I spent time this morning thanking God for such a dear, dear sister. She is everything a sister should be, everything I want in a sister. (Diane is too, but this is Stacie's day.) I love Stacie so much and cannot imagine life without her.
We are 2500 miles apart, but she's never more than a phone call away. We always pick up right where we are with no formalities needed. We dig right into sisterhood, friendship and sharing life. With us both working full time, our Ma Bell experiences are fewer than they use to be. However, Stacie is right with me all the time because I carry her so closely to my heart. I enjoy her so much and share such an affinity that it seems in some strange way that we're always together. I'd like us to be closer in flesh, but am not convinced even that would make us closer in spirit.
Yesterday I was thinking of the road trip Stacie and I did a few years ago across the southern states. In the car for extended hours we really got "in the zone" thinking the same thing at the same time. We talked at length of our childhood church, singing the hymns of our youth (which neither of us is exposed to anymore), and usually in the spirit of imitation -- imitating someone from our childhood congregation. (My mom cringes right here as she reads this).
We would finish a tune, laugh ourselves nearly crazy and then sink into our private thoughts, Stacie driving and looking straight ahead, me watching the countryside of kudzu, hills and oaks go by. Over and over these moments of reflection ended when at the exact moment we both burst into another hymn sung in the way so-in-so sang it.
That is the relationship Stacie and I share. How very, very blessed I am.
Stacie, I love you more than words can express. You are, forever, my bosom friend. Happy Birthday, Swisser.
originally published February 20, 2006
Today is my only son's 17th birthday. Everyone should have someone in their life like Christopher. He brings delight and joy wherever he is. He weighed 9.3 when he was born; a chunky, beautiful, fair-skinned bundle of love. For the first few hours he was naked because the nurses couldn't find a "hospital-issue" sleeper big enough for him. Dr Mesko gave the babies he delivered a t-shirt that read "Delivered with Love by Dr. Mesko." From Christopher's first breath, he was too big for that t-shirt. (But I still have it.)
He was a very contented baby who slept lots, was pleasant when he was awake, was easily entertained, and who smiled lots and lots. Everyone loved Christopher. At church, people gravitated to him so they could enjoy he gummy smiles. Mike Holder use to get in Christopher's face and say, "Christopher, get a job," and Christopher would kick and cackle excitedly.
When he was 3 he began developing a fine sense of humor. I'm sure he had heard these expressions somewhere, but one winter day he, Stephanie, and I went for a drive in the country. Christopher said, "Mom, I need to water my horse." Puzzled, I asked what he meant. "You know Mom, I need to make some mud." I quickly figured out he needed to pee.
Around the same time he entered a very pronounced cowboy phase. He took it very seriously, wearing western clothes and boots everywhere. What I wouldn't give to have those little gray boots now. Gordon sent him a lariat and Christopher took it wherever he went. He rode his tricycle down the sidewalk hollering "giddy-up" or "Eeeeeaww" playing like he was roping calves with his new rope.
After Gordon and I got engaged, we came to Canada for a visit. We went to Ft Steele to enjoy the western frontier life for a day. Gordon had a connection there so Christopher got to sit on one of the gigantic Belgian horses that even I would have been scared to sit on. The horse took one step and Christopher's eyes widened and he declared, "Wooooe, this one's a wiiiild one."
When we moved to Canada, he quickly adopted Gordon's fuzzy blanket with a horse on it as his own. To this day, we call that blanket the horsie blanket. At nap time he would curl up in his horsie blanket and when I left his room I'd say "Nappy Noon Christopher." He would counter with, "Mom, cowboys don't say Nappy Noon."
The next summer when he came to visit, I rented some videos about real cowboys. We watched boy cows being made steers (being neutered) and Christopher watched with sympathetic eyes. I explained the process and the reason behind it as best I knew. He took his thumb out of his mouth long enough to say, "When I get my farm, I'm not gonna do that to my cows."
The cowboy obsession is far behind Christopher. Now he drives a hippy van, plays football, leads worship some, plays guitar, and takes kindness and joy everywhere he goes.
I'm thankful for Christopher. I'm thankful I was chosen to give him birth. I'm thankful for the innumerable precious memories I have. I'm thankful Christopher walks with God and desires to honor and glorify him with his life.
Happy Birthday Christopher. I pray it will be a GREAT year for you. I love you.
THIS IS MY 1000th POST on this blog. One might call me verbose, but remember, I'm only verbose in written form. Usually, anyway.
I had a birthday. Turned thirty-fourteen. I'm not getting any younger and complained to Gordon that my face falls a bit more everyday. He assures me he'll still love me even if I have to carry my face in my purse to keep it from dragging.
He is an absolute amazing support and friend to me. This table is what I woke to on Sunday morning, my birthday and Valentines Day. The girls and I always feel so loved on Valentines Day. I was about to get my breakfast on this morning when I spotted the table. I said, "Awwh," forewent the toast and grabbed three cookies and said, "gotta jump start the ole metabolism." It was an amazing day. Thank you, My Love.
I got a special gift, my blog made into books. They are huge -- even I had no clue I said so much over the past few years. Now I'm busy editing, deleting, cleaning up my spelling and grammar. When I get done, I'm turning them into real hardcover books. Anyone want to buy an over-priced book? I say "over-priced" because they are expensive when printing so few, but once I get them cleaned up -- that's a very big and time-consuming job -- I'll be happy to print a few extra just for you. They will make great bathroom reading. My kids are fighting over the books and laughing out loud frequently. Gordon and I have done some of the same.
I'm taking a wee break from posting fresh new stuff. I'm going to devote my blogging time to editing my book. However, keep reading this blog because I'll still be here recycling old posts. To celebrate my 1000th post I'm doing reruns. I hope you'll enjoy them. If you have a favorite, just let me know and I'll put it out there again.
So keep visiting. Who knows what you'll find.
Our dear little Rachael turned 14 a few days ago. Every time we met in the hall, in the kitchen, and especially when I tucked her into bed, I took the opportunity to acknowledge how much pain I was in "15 years ago right now." It is true, Rachael's birth takes the cake on my experience with labor and I don't want the dear child to forget it. :-) I think she loves the stories about her birth and how I was so awed by her beauty and by God's graciousness in giving me a second chance to be a better mom.
When I think of Rachael's day of birth, I think of how I held her and carressed her little cowlick -- which she ended up calling her "pocket" -- for hours. I held and admired her soft pudgy body and rubbed that little velvety soft spot in her forehead.
She has perfected the art of hiding her cowlick though and I miss it terribly. Last night I had to talk her into letting me massage that soft spot that I love so much. She's kind to oblige her mom like that. I have many bonded hours with Rachael doing nothing by staring at her and caressing it. Do you see her cowlick in the left corner of her forehead? It's still so very sweet to me.
Rachael gives us so much joy. She is responsible and very helpful. She can be very kind and gentle. She is as strong-willed as ever, but I see some of that strong will manifesting itself in ways that are truly welcomed. She laughs at my dumb jokes, makes me laugh at her wonky things, loves to talk and talk and talk. To my dismay, she's starting to think about dumb boys more and more. ggrrr.
Rachael is a true blessing. I love her so very, very much and am thankful beyond words for such a sweet daughter. Happy Birthday my dear sweet Rachael.
Yesterday was Canada Day. As we prepared to go out for fireworks, Rachael reminded me of something I use to say. When Deborah was pretty wee, she'd sit on my lap during the fireworks display and ask why there were fireworks. I'd say "because tomorrow is your birthday." Deborah and I smiled at the recollection of her thinking the fireworks were a big celebration of her birthday.
Deborah's turning 10 is bittersweet. This birthday means I don't have any children in the single digits anymore. It's a milestone, a reminder that time is slipping away, a reminder to number my days so that I may gain a heart of wisdom. Deborah is so social that I can easily lose touch with her. While she's out socializing and making sure she's not missing anything important that may be going on somewhere, she is not with me. With none of my other children have I suddenly been appalled by how big they are. Not so with Deborah. Sometimes she'll walk into the room and I'll be shocked and suddenly saddened by how tall she is. I'll have this feeling that I've not seen her for days. But of course, I see her daily. .
When I shop for her I always start in size 6X. For some reason, I'm stuck in 6X. I'll study the jeans and think she's bigger than this. I know with my head she's much bigger, but my heart has to be convinced every time. I'll move up the rack and finally stop at size 12 and wonder, when did she get this big?. It's a disconcerting emotion.
But it's also quite sweet to see how our little lady is growing up. She continues developing more sweetness, kindness and politeness. She is strong in spirit and easily speaks her mind and mostly in a self-controlled kind manner. She recently went through her first series of sex-education classes at school. She was thrilled and took it all so seriously. When the boys laughed or made off-color jokes, she'd rebuke, "This is very serious and you shouldn't be laughing and joking about it." I know she must have been a wet blanket, but still it was sweet. She got on a little kick about how immature the boys are. I'm guessing they spent a lot of time talking about "maturity" as it became the buzz word with the girls in the class. "Girls are so much more mature than boys." "I can't believe how immature ---- is." Mercy sakes, I wanted to remind her they are just 9 years old, it's not necessary to be mature at 9, but she seemed too mature to rebuke. :-)
Deborah is a very thoughtful sensitive child. A while back when I picked her up at school she said it had been a sad day. "Doug's dog Toby died. He left school early and won't be at school tomorrow." She came home and promptly made Doug a card. It said something like, "Dear Doug, I'm sorry about Toby. He was a good dog. He is waiting on the rainbow bridge for you in heaven. To be absent from the body is to be present with God." Theology aside, it was terribly sweet. She drew pictures of Doug and Toby and finished it off with lots of crosses. Then she took a box of Little Debbies and rode her bike to Doug's house for a bereavement visit.
Every Saturday when we volunteer at the nursing home (this is something we started in January at Deborah's suggestion) you'd be amazed at Deborah's acumen for dealing with seniors. She speaks clearly and loudly. She touches them easily. She serves them cookies with a bright smile and a "how are you today?" Her favorite part is walking with Nellie. Nellie cannot string a coherent sentence, but she loves to walk with Deborah. They walk the wing back and forth, holding hands.
Today is a special day. I've had a Deborah for 10 years and positively cannot imagine life without her. She is nothing short of a delightful joy, a tender strength, a purposeful blessing.
God, I am thankful that you created Deborah and allowed me to be her mother. Please keep Deborah safe and healthy and continue to draw her to you, to personal powerful relationship with you. Help her be all you created her to be. Be glorified in Deborah's life.
Twenty years ago today a whopping 9.3 pound beautiful boy entered this world and my life. When the nurse placed him in my arms I was so struck with awe, all I could say was “My son, oh my son.” Like a stuck record.“ My son, oh my son.” It’s still a theme for me. Sometimes I look at his picture on the piano or my desk at work and say aloud, “My son, oh my son.” Sometimes when I hug him I hear the mantra slip out.
Some of my favorite memories of his toddling days are seeing his hefty body stuffed into padded feet pajamas. I adored that chunky form, his rolls, his creases. Smiles came unbidden when he entered a room.
He loved homemade bread. I always sliced the bread with an electric knife (yes, I know, a curious compulsion). I knew of his love for fresh bread but I wasn’t aware of his grasp that the electric knife meant fresh bread was imminent. Here’s how I found out (and to this day I can’t not smile when I think of it).
He and Stephanie were playing in their bedroom. Cackles of glee, banging of Lego blocks, and prouffs of the nerf ball hitting the wall echoed down the hall. They were totally present in their play. I had every reason to think I’d get the first slice of bread.
I fired up the electric knife to cut into a hot loaf. Christopher tore out of the bedroom with all the force his padded feet could conjure. His eyes shone with anticipation and, of course, he got the first slice of buttered bread.
His disposition was loving, affirming, and darn near angelic. He was an adoring son. When he was three we had a Sunday routine. When I finished getting ready for church I’d come out of the bedroom. Christopher’s eyes widened and he always chimed as if it was the first time he’d ever seen me dressed up, “Wow, Mama, you look purlee.” Then he’d stare at me for a few seconds as if my beauty took his breath away.
At mine and Gordon’s wedding Christopher and Stephanie were our only attendants. They were adorable. Four-year-old Christopher wore a tuxedo just like Gordon’s except Gordon had a “tail” and Christopher didn’t. Christopher didn’t notice this discrepancy until midway through the service. He picked up Gordon’s tail studying its function, bewilderment creasing his eyebrows. He craned his head backwards and pulled up his own jacket to find his tail. He didn’t find one so he fingered Gordon’s in perplexed curiosity.
With resigned acceptance he thrust his hands into his pockets. During a pause in the pastor’s words Christopher belted sweet and clear, “Mama, I’ve got a ring in my pocket.” Awwhhs and approving chuckles filled the sanctuary. He never knew he’d stolen the show.
A few summers ago I was so amazed by his grown up persona. He wasn’t a wittle (a Christopher word) boy any more, he was a young man. As much as I’d enjoyed that little boy, this man delighted me just as much. Now instead of filling my days with reasons to smile, he forced belly laughs on me.
Once when I came home from work he showed me his scuffed arm that came when he got hit by an SUV. I went mildly ballistic bulleting him with questions. Did they see you? Did they stop? Did you get their license plate number? Were there witnesses? Christopher interrupted my tirade with, “Mom, I just wanted to get out of the street so it wouldn’t happen again.”
Today my man cub is 20. He’s not a chunky monkey anymore, he doesn’t pad around in tight fitting pajamas, he's not particularly hung up on homemade bread, and he’s quit telling me I’m purlee. But he still makes a room light up – especially if I’m in it.
He is extraordinarily special. Of all the moms in the world I’m glad God chose me as his mom.
My son, oh my son, you are still my delight.
I had a birthday over the weekend and received many well wishes. It was a good day. This is what was on the kitchen table when I got up on Saturday morning.
Recently there has been this "25 things about me" list going around on Facebook. Here's my list.
1. I'm the youngest child in the family. I have a brother and two sisters that I love very much. They are all dysfunctional and count on me to help them along life's highway with some semblance of normality.
2. I am in an online bookclub with "kids" I was in junior high with. Our teacher is in the same bookclub. How weird is that? But it's beautiful to be connected.
3. I have been in 47 US states, many of them on a motorcycle.
4. I toured the US on motorcycle in 1992.
5. Besides the brother and two sisters I've already mentioned, there was another daughter. Her name was Deborah and she died when she was almost 2 of a brain tumor. She is why I named my baby Deborah.
6. In 1991 I was in China, Hong Kong, Thailand, and Vietnam.
7. Going to Vietnam with a US passport when the US had sanctions against Vietnam still has repercussions with US immigration.
8. I'm about to go public for the first time with my biggest self-development goal. Here goes... I want to be a marathon runner.
9. On Wednesday I'm going to my first Weight Watchers meeting. Yikes, that's embarrassing.
10. For most of the time Gordon and I have been married, we've had extra people living with us. Either foster children or foreign exchange students. I've been foster mom to 15 children and home-stay mom to 17 foreign students (many of those were short term). No one has lived with us since 2004.
11. I studied Business. That cracks me up now as I have NOOO interest in it.
12. I received a full scholarship to East Texas Baptist University.
13. I love St Francis of Assisi. I have tried to join the Ecumenical (as in non-Catholic) Order of Franciscans on three occasions. I never succeeded.
14. I have done freelance writing under a pen name that I've never told a soul. It's such a pretty name.
15. I have a huge desire to do a volunteer vacations in third world countries throughout the world. Some day we (the whole family) hope to take a year off for just that.
16. A few of my heroes are Martin Luther King, Gandhi, Winston Churchill, Mother Teresa, Gary Larson.
17. 25 interesting things is pretty hard to come up with... I won 2 gold medals this past summer in dragon boating. And I went to physical fitness boot camp for 7 weeks this past fall.
18. I sympathize with vegetarianism. I am repulsed by lots of meat. I'm not a vegetarian yet, but I think it's coming. Gordon and the girls still want meat.
19. Weddings give me panic attacks.
20. I've been blogging since 2005.
21. I drive very slowly. I think that comes from years of speeding through life, or at least pretending to be speeding through life.
22. I have gone through serious depressions that have lasted years.
23. I haven't had television in over 20 years. I do not miss it.
24. I love simple living, I love living simply. I'm becoming a minimalist.
25. Other than mortgages on two houses, Gordon and I are nearly debt free.
Hannah and friends
Ride 'em cowgirls.
Pardon my blurry pictures. As usual with the older photos, I've taken pictures of pictures.
Eleven years ago today a 9.9 pound red baby with lots of black hair came into my world. (She had actually been in my world long before then, but not in my arms.) Hannah Kathleen. She looked nothing like my previous babies and had I not witnessed the whole thing, I would have said they'd given me the wrong baby. I wanted to tell everyone in the delivery room, "Hey, this is really weird. My other babies were pretty. Really, I mean my others were very pretty. Everyone said so." But no, not Hannah. She looked like a mixture of a cranky Winston Churchill, the fat toothless old lady down the street, and a red poached egg. But I loved her. I loved her lots. "Oh Gordon, she's so ugly," I said proudly. And I was proud.
When we came home from the hospital, my next door neighbor came over and oohed and awed saying stuff like "Look at all that hair," and "She is so sweet." I wanted to tell the neighbor that I knew she was ugly, but I didn't want to sound un-proud, because I was proud. I know a few tricks when it comes to dealing with ugly babies. Among my tricks are, "Look at all that hair," and "She is so sweet." Might as well just come out and say, "Woe, is she ever homely."
But I loved her. She loved me too, so I loved her all the more. As she grew she lost the Winston and egg look but kept looking more and more like the toothless old woman down the road. More than a couple times I thanked God that it was a woman down the road she looked like and not a man. When she became expressive with grinning and all, the resemblance to the sweet lady was astounding. My girlfriend Elisa knew the lady down the road. Once the old lady left my house and I confided that I thought Hannah looked like her. Elisa laughed and said the she and Walter thought so too.
Well, the pretty fairies visited when Hannah was about five months old and she became cute. Very, very cute. She got a couple teeth and lost the little old lady look.
Unfortunately I was exhausted from having two babies. And it sure didn't help that one of them was Rachael. Exhaustion, hormones, - call it what you wish - wiped me out. Depression came on and my memories of Hannah's babyhood are cloudy and murky. I simply don't remember a whole lot.
When she was just a couple weeks old Gordon told me that there was a surprise baby shower for us two doors down. I sat and wept. I cried hysterically, "I'm too tired to go out." But I pulled myself together and we made it. Those sort of emotions marked those days. Fortunately, I have pictures and when I look at the pictures I remember things. She's smiling in the pictures so I think she fared okay through it all.
From the get-go of her little life, Hannah had a big sister that was a baby herself. Rachael colored all over Hannah, sat on her, man-handled her like a sack of potatoes. Hannah smiled through most of it.
She learned fairly early how to stand her ground with Rachael. We realized in her young life that she had her own methods of handling her overbearing big sister. Once as we drove, Rachael protested that Hannah was touching her: "Hannah's bothering me."
Hannah made a pointy with her index finger and began a little sing-song as she poked Rachael over and over saying, "Bovering, bovering, bovering." We knew then that life was going to balance things out fine. And occasionally we all say, "Bovering, bovering, bovering," as a way of saying I'm trying to get on your nerves.
Hannah grew and became sensitive. She cared about the feelings of others, including animals. She became very articulate, loving to learn new words. Her musings in the backseat often were word games. She played it alone and with no guidance whatsoever. "Re-spect-ful. Re-spect-ful." "Dis-cip-line." She spoke slowly and crisply. We could tell she was saying the words just to enjoy rolling them off her tongue. She played this game for years actually. Once after watching the Tigger Movie, she sat in her carseat quoting Tigger. "Splen-dif-er-rous. Splen-dif-er-rous." We loved listening to Hannah repeating big words to herself.
Twice Hannah did weird little falls that knocked her out cold. The first time I was vacuuming when she fell off the sofa. It scared me silly. I phoned Gordon and he did the typical man thing. He rebuked me for worrying too much. Months and months later I felt rightly vindicated. He had taken the kids to Burger King. Hannah did one of her weird falls and went out cold. He absolutely panicked. Someone phoned 911, a lady came over to help out. She told Gordon that Hannah was breathing and would probably be fine. Gordon sat holding her, crying like a baby, waiting for the ambulance.
By the time I got to the emergency room, she was in a tiny green hospital gown soaking up the attention. She was fine. I've often wished I'd stolen that little gown. She looked so cute.
Hannah has always marched to the beat of a different drummer, more than once taking abuse for doing so. When she was in grade 1 she loved collecting bird feathers. At the park some boys teased, "Ooh, it's the feather girl. She's always got feathers." Hannah was hurt, but undeterred.
Her grade one teacher told me Hannah was a strong little girl who was willing to be different. And she was a bit different.
Hannah is my easiest child to buy for and treat special. She has so many likes, interests, and passions. Dogs, horses, art, music, piano, stationery, pretty things, porcelain dolls, - she has many interests. It's an endearing quality.
She's thoughtful, considerate, compassionate. She's kind, funny, artistic, and clever. She's typically an absolute doll to be around.
Yesterday she and I went to the Humane Society for a date. I was struck again by how easy she is to please.
This morning she smiled broadly as she was served breakfast in bed.
Tomorrow she is going to Beppe's for two nights. I guess they'll do the usual birthday shopping trip. She's excited. Then on Saturday we'll celebrate. She's chosen horseback riding and a picnic. She's so happy with her plans.
Hannah is delightful. I love her so much and marvel at her many talents. Truly to know her is to love her. I'm thankful for her.
Happy Birthday my sweet Hannah. You are beautiful (but I'd love you no less if you still looked like a red poached egg). You bring delight to our lives and to our home. May you grow to be all God created you to be. And may you always point others to Him.
(This morning, breakfast in bed for an 11 year old.)
(This is Rachael on her first birthday, 1996)
Last night when I tucked Rachael in, I took her face between my hands and we looked into each others' eyes. "Thirteen years ago tonight I was in the worst pain of my entire life," I told her. She smiled approvingly as though she was very pleased to hold that distinction.
Today my lovely Rachael is 12. What delight she's brought to my life and to our home. I'd be lying to say Rachael's childhood was a breeze. She was a perfect baby. She slept well, ate well, cooed contentedly, smiled and laughed abundantly. But her toddler years were full of assertion, demandingness, breaking things, and plenty of other reasons for people not to appreciate her. Other children may have said, "NO" more, but Rachael lived "NO." She didn't respect people enough to grace them with the word no, she simply did what she darn well pleased. Daily she'd go to the book shelf in the living room and pull off all the books. When she was finished, she'd fetch a parent to show her work. Matter of factly she'd declare, "no, no Racho."
More than a few times I toyed with throwing in the towel of discipline. It seemed nothing curbed her independence, strong will, and steely resolve. Secretly I harbored animosity toward Gordon thinking his genes surely created this cute monster that I loved so much.
Her reputation went before and behind her. Overhearing people talk about her was all too familiar. All others seemed to notice were her negative traits. It seemed no one appreciated the traits that were positively wonderful.
She had more energy and strength than is fitting a toddler. She learned to climb out of her crib, to my horror, ridiculously early. Her destructive imagination knew no bounds. When she was a mere 13 months old, she became a big sister. Obviously that meant I didn't have all the time in the world to sit on Rachael to prevent her destructive ways.
When Hannah was beginning to crawl well, Rachael opened the oven door which Hannah promptly pulled up on. Rachael shoved her in the oven and shut the door. Things of this nature were common-place in our home. She was clever, creative, curious, and energetic. She was full of life, zest, and energy.
Once a neighbor down the street phoned to tell me diapers were flying out an upstairs window. I ran upstairs, where Rachael was supposed to be in her crib sleeping, and found her at the window dropping one diaper out at a time. Yes there was a screen on the window, but she had managed to break it off. The thought that she could have easily fallen out the window tormented me for days. Because she looked so cute, I stood quietly in her door as she deposited diapers one at a time out the window. "Bye bye diaper" or "Uh oh" accompanied each flying diaper.
Her toddler years tested every thing I believed as a parent. The hardships began at one and grew steadily worse for three years. The "terrible twos" were a cake walk compared to the totalitarian threes. Praise be to God, at four years old, we rounded a corner. Hard work, which seemed to be producing nothing for a few years, started to bear fruit.
Many years and much delight and joy later, Rachael is the light of my life. She still has that zest and zeal for living. It demonstrates itself in two jobs that she's very good at, a voracious love for reading, an insatiable desire to know more about Egypt and Ancient Greece, a love for family. She still needs less sleep than the rest of us but now I don't worry that she'll burn the house down, flush towels down the toilet, or climb out a window to go exploring.
The traits that made her a difficult toddler are now making her a strong, trust-worthy, wise young lady.
Today we had a delightful time at the mall. She was loaded with cash and our birthday girl was quick to buy things for her sisters. She is truly delightful.
Those hours of excruciating pain 13 years ago were really quite a small price to pay. I am forever thankful for my sweet Rachael.
Rachael, may you continue to grow to be all God created you to be. May you love Him with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. May you grow wiser with each passing year and may you bring others at least a fraction of the joy you bring me. I love you, Darling.
Rachael, 12 years old today. Isn't she a precious one?
(12 years old. 2007)