Wicked Witch of the West Coast

Is there a Halloween equivalent to Ebenezer Scrooge? Or a Halloween Grinch? Because that's where I am this Halloween. I'm Ebenezer Scrooge. I'm the Grinch. I'm the Wicked Witch of the West Coast.

Have you ever had this happen to you? When it's time to starting decorating and celebrating a holiday and you just don't have it in you? That's been me. I'm just not in the mood this year. I have two huge orange tubs of Halloween decorations in the garage that I haven't even bothered to open. Dragging everything out is a process and then 31 days later I have to clean it all up and put it all away. Pulling all of that shit out for Christmas is one thing. But Halloween? No thanks. The above picture? Yeah, that's the extent of my decorating this year. I didn't even buy pumpkins for the porch! What has happened to me?!?

This will be the first time in 14 years that I have not bought a Halloween costume for one of my boys. Of course, I knew with B starting high school this year that he probably wouldn't/shouldn't be interested in dressing up. But my youngest? He's only 11. I kind of thought he had a couple of years left, but he decided that he wasn't really interested in dressing up this year. Am I upset by this you ask? Does this make me sad? NOPE. Not. One. Bit.

Usually, I'm a huge on traditions. I love traditions, especially the ones that are connected to the holidays. Our Halloween involve carving pumpkins, tasteful orange and black decor both inside and outside, candy corn pumpkins, watching It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown at least once. We did watch Linus in the pumpkin patch and of course I bought some candy corn pumpkins, but that's been about it.

When I look at old pictures of the boys in their Halloween costumes, I feel my heart long for them to be little again. Oh how cute they were! They were Dalmatians and teddy bears and little Yodas. There was Lightening McQueen, football players and a fireman, skeletons and Storm Troopers. Lots and lots of cute costumes. Will I be sad on Halloween when my boys aren't dressing up? Will I feel like we are missing out not going to Trick-or-Treat? NOPE AGAIN.

First of all, if there' s no costumes there's no Trick-or-Treating, and I don't need all of that damn candy in the house. The less candy in my life, the better. I promised the boys that I would buy some candy for them. They requested Butterfingers, Kit Kats and peanut butter cups. I promised I would buy a SMALL BAG of each for them to enjoy and that's it. They agreed.

Second, I saved both money and sanity not searching for or ordering on Amazon whatever crazy expensive costumes they requested, and then having to return the costume and find another one when they change their minds a week later.

And finally, no pumpkins means no carving which means no pumpkin guts and mess to clean up or rotting pumpkins to throw away.

So for a quick recap, I won't have gigantic bags of candy in the house taunting me for months on end, I have extra money in my pocket, I feel no stress (about Halloween anyway), and no pumpkin guts to deal with. Does that make me a Scrooge or a Grinch or a Witch? No. I think it makes me a genius.

Happy Halloween! (Or not... I don't care.)

A Home Tour: The Dream House


This was the dream house. The house that I quickly became obsessed with. The house that I only got to live in for two years.

I'll never forget the first time I saw the dream house. It was Friday of OU/Texas Weekend. I headed down to Norman to meet with my sister-in-law, Karen, a relator, who had a few houses picked out for me to look at. Derek and I decided that moving to Norman, for various reasons, should be in our near future. So I decided to go look...just for fun. (For me, this is the equivalent of "just looking" at a litter of new puppies. There's no way I'm leaving without wanting one.)

We stopped for lunch at The Mont, a popular restaurant near the OU campus. The whole city was down in Dallas for the game, so we had the place to ourselves. It was a cool fall day. Pumpkins appearing on front porches, leaves just starting to turn, football excitement in the air. The vibe in the city was perfect. Perfect for making me want to move.

During lunch which might have included a Swirl and definitely included queso, Karen looked at me and said, "There's a house just down the street that I should show you. It isn't officially on the market yet but will be soon. It's DARLING!" I'm not certain that she used the word DARLING, but it doesn't matter because that is exactly what the house was. When we rounded the corner and I laid my eyes on the house for the first time, I knew the house MUST BE MINE!

Karen called the home owner and asked if we could get inside. Before long we were inside my dream house, gushing and moaning and groaning (mostly from me) about how fabulous this house was. Built in the 1920's and recently renovated by the oweners (very Joanna Gaines-esk, before Joanna Gaines was...well...Joanna Gaines), 433 Macy was the most charming house in the whole city. I'm not exaggerating. Whenever I would tell my Norman friends which house it was they would say, "That's the most charming house in the whole city!"

I can't remember many of the details after that. I do know that I called Derek and told him that there was a house in Norman that we had to buy RIGHT NOW! We couldn't wait because I DON'T WANT SOMEONE ELSE LIVING IN MY HOUSE! Was I a tad dramatic about the urgency of the whole thing? Perhaps. But I didn't care. This was my dream house.

By April 2004 we were moving in. It wasn't a smooth transition, but moving rarely is. Shortly after, we found out that we were pregnant with Palmer and a few weeks after that, Derek won his first National Championship. Living on Macy Street was very dreamy. I loved waking up on Saturdays in the fall, feeling the energy of the city gearing up for game day. I loved decorating my front porch for all of the holidays. I loved the brick pavers in the kitchen, the Japanese Maple in the front yard, and the delicate lace roman shades in the front windows. I. Loved. This. House. Life was pretty damn perfect. Things were going well for the Freemans.

Until they weren't. That summer, Derek moved into a new position at our alma mater which quickly grew into a miserable situation. By the spring of 2005, I had a newborn, a 3 year-old, and a husband that was utterly and completely unhappy at work. It was the best of times and the worst of times. Evenings in our darling new home were clouded with constant discussions about the future and what it might or might not bring. Money was extremely tight making even the simplest trips to the grocery store fraught with worry. No matter how darling or charming our house was, the people living inside were stressed, anxious and worried.

I dreamt one night that I had to say goodbye to my dream house. I woke up, panicked, saw that I was still on Macy Street, and fell back asleep. A few months later, in the summer of 2006, we moved to California leaving Macy Street in the rearview mirror of a U-haul truck.

I was heartbroken to be saying goodbye to my dream house so soon. It wasn't fair. I felt like we were just getting started. But we had hopes of returning, so instead of selling we rented it out. The man that we rented the house to would occasionally send me emails, telling me how great the house was, how much he was enjoying it, how fun it was to live there on game days. And I would cry while responding, thanking him for taking such good care of my dream house. Yes, we would hold on to our dream home until we needed it again.

We didn't need it after all.

We sold the dream house in 2008. Surprisingly, I wasn't that sad about it. By that time we had truly moved on in every sense of the word. We had settled comfortably into life in sunny California, Derek winning his second National Championship. He was happy to be a Bruin, our finances were improving, and our evenings weren't spend fretting over what the future might or might not bring.

As charming and darling and loved as the Macy house was, it wasn't the best time of our lives while living there. A house cannot fix everything, nor can it bring the happiness and security that you long for. Will I ever live in another house as charming? No. Probably not. I also have come to realize that you can have more that one dream house in your lifetime, but you never forget your first.

But even Michael Phelps had to start somewhere.

I didn't cry when he left for his first day at high school. I really thought I would. I was all prepared to be emotional. I guess I was too prepared because I didn't shed one tear.

Of course I didn't let myself go to that place. You know that place where you start to think about how cute he was on his first day of kindergarten...in his little green and white striped shirt...carrying his blue LEGO backpack...and then you look at him now...all teenagery and skinny...with braces and worn out Vans...and how this is the beginning of the end...and there are only four years left before he's going off all on his own. Yeah, THAT place. I didn't let myself go there.

So I watched him walk down the street, towards high school. And then I followed him.

I kept a safe distance, mind you. I didn't want to totally embarrass the poor kid. But the Golfer and I couldn't help ourselves. We followed him to the corner of the busy intersection and after seeing that he had made it safely across, we let him go the rest of the way by himself. Then for the next seven hours we sat and stared at each other occasionally wondering out loud how his day was going, waiting for him to come home and hopefully tell us all about his first day.

We got our wish. He was quite chatty upon returning home. We made him start from the beginning, walking us through his whole day.

"And then during lunch, I decided to go to the counselor's office and change my schedule. I dropped P.E. and I'm now in Swim Team Conditioning."

I'm sorry. You did what? To quote Chevy Chase from the cinematic classic Christmas Vacation, I wouldn't have been more surprised if I had woken up with with my head sewn to the carpet.

Putting aside the fact that we were proud of our son for taking the initiative to change his schedule on his own without the help of a parent, we were more than shocked at his choice. Was this a side effect of Rio? A reaction to watching to much Olympic coverage? No, he really hadn't watched that much. So we could only ask one simple question. Why?

"I didn't like P.E. and I didn't have a lot of choices and swimming sounded fun."

Let me remind you, our oldest has always been our child who will try anything. He's tried everything out there. Football, basketball, art, T-ball, soccer, drums, tennis, golf...but there was one thing that he had never tried. Swimming. Competitive swimming. Sure, the kid is a great swimmer in our own pool. But actual competitive swimming against other people for, like, 100 meters at a time? Nope. Not even close. We weren't even sure that he could do a single lap in our small pool without being completely out of breath. So we did what most parents would do. We panicked. 

"Buddy. You know that swimming out here is, like, crazy competitive. And the kids in that class want to, you know, actually be on the swim team. And they are on club swim teams. And they go to meets, like, every weekend all year long. And they take it super seriously. And the coach, well, he probably doesn't want kids in that class to just fart around. And you don't have any experience, I mean, outside of just goofing off in the pool. And do you even know how to do all of the strokes. And..."

We went on and on and on. We went totally negative all over our son who had just walked in the door after a great first day of high school. He had walked in all happy like Bill Clinton with a bunch of balloons and we had popped every...single...one.

And then our sweet, 14 year old high schooler looked at us with sadness in his eyes and defeat in his voice and said, "Well, fine. I just won't swim then."

That's when the Golfer and I looked at each other, realizing what we had done. We had smacked labels of "You Can't" and "You're Not Good Enough" all over our son. We had pooped all over his excitement. We had totally and absolutely failed as parents in that moment. We had allowed our fears to take over. Fear was driving the school bus and this wasn't acceptable. As the author Elizabeth Gilbert says, fear can ride in the back seat but it can't choose the radio station.

Seeing the disappointment from our son forced us to quickly get over ourselves. So our son had no competitive swimming experience. So what! There wasn't a competitive swimming prerequisite to be in the class, so why were we so worried? And here's the thing...What if! What if he really got into swimming and found out that he really liked it? What's the worse that can happen? That our son get a great workout doing an exercise that's really good for you? What's the harm in that? Is he going to be the next Michael Phelps? Shit no. But even Michael Phelps had to start somewhere.

Turns out our son has some buddies in the class who are swimmers and is making new friends in the class as well. Are they making fun of him because he's not very good? No! Quiet the opposite actually. They are all encouraging and helpful and kind. The coach seems extremely nice and loves to teach new competitive swimmers. Our son is even talking about wanting to try out for the JV team in the spring. Crazy I tell you. As crazy as if I had woken up with my head sewn to the carpet.

And speaking of crazy, I now have to go buy a Speedo. 

paying attention part 12: Mama's gonna have your back. Always.

Mama's got your back.

I just did something I promised myself I wouldn't. I organized my son's high school notebook.

I couldn't help myself. It's high school. Everything counts now. It matters. Letting him start high school unorganized feels completely wrong.

As a parent I promised myself that I will never do something for my sons that they can do for themselves. Has that always been easy? Nope. It drives me nuts how they put away their clean laundry, how they load the dishwasher, how they make their beds and "clean" their rooms, but I let them do it. Because that's my job. To let them do it.

So if he can do all of that, can't he can organize his school folders and paperwork all by himself? I mean, come on. He's a Freshman in high school for goodness sake. Surely he can organize his own damn folders.

Except that he can't. Sometimes my son's ADHD rears it's ugly head. Like it's waving at us, desperate to get our attention saying, "Hello! I'm still here and I'm never leaving!" And when that happens, all I really want to do is give it the finger and leave the room. But unfortunately that's not a option.

After being diagnosed after the third grade, we tried three different types of ADHD medication over almost a two year period. Although the medication helped him in some areas, the negative effects of the medication weren't worth the small benefits. We took him off of the meds and he as done very well without them. He has learned to compensate and for the last three years has been an excellent student.

But there are moments. Reminders that oh yeah, our son has ADHD. He still gets very distracted. I can't speak to what he's like in class, but his grades have been great so we assume that he's paying attention in class. But when he gets home, distractions abound. I am constantly having to tell him to get off of YouTube, stop looking at your phone, etc., etc. His hand writing is terrible. And his organizational skills, well they drive me to drink.

Yes, that's right. It drives me nuts how disorganized my son can be. Bonkers. And I've shown him. I've shown him over and over again about how to use his planner and label his folders and how to keep the correct papers in the corresponding folders. Several times throughout the year I get to have to reorganize him. And he lets me because he knows that I need to do that for him.

Because here's the thing. He's disorganized. He might always be a little disorganized. He might drive his future wife bananas with how disorganized he is. But for now, I can help. I can help set him up. I can get out my trusted label maker and get all over his files and notebooks and spiral folders and I can organize the shit out of all of it.

There are things that matter and things that don't. How he puts away his laundry or loads the dishwasher or makes his bed doesn't really matter. If he can't find his Algebra homework because it's in his Spanish folder and ends up getting a zero, well that matters. And this Mama can't let that go. There's a lot of things I can let go. Lots of things that I have no problem letting my kids suffer through to learn their lesson. His disorganization isn't his fault, it's his ADHD's fault. He needs the extra help and Mama's gonna have his back. Always. Even as a Freshman in high school.

And yes, I will be giving his bride a label maker as a wedding present. She's gonna need it.

Click here for our son's ADHD journey.

A Home Tour: NW 56th Street

We had been engaged for a couple of months at most. It was a Sunday afternoon and after church we decided to drive around Oklahoma City to look at neighborhoods where we might want to live eventually. At the time, I was still in the Pickard house and the Golfer was living in an apartment in Edmond. We had no intention that day of buying a house, but that's exactly what happened. (You might see a trend forming here.)

We ended up driving to a neighborhood where our friend happened to lived. Driving down his street, we unexpectedly found an open house right across from our friend's home. Like the Pickard house, that night we made an offer and a few days later it was ours.

This home needed some work, mind you, but the Golfer had done a little home flipping right out of college. He knew all about ripping things out and putting them back together again. Me? Not so much. Not at all actually. I come from a long line of "let's hire somebody to do this" kind of people. The Golfer? Complete opposite. He comes from a long line of "I can do this myself and save a shitton of money" kind of people. Yes, we were the yin to each others home remodeling yang.

specially commissioned watercolor of our first home together

Both of us had full-time jobs. We were I was also busy planning a wedding, so remodeling the new house was like adding yet another full-time job. We had eight months to complete our remodel before the wedding. And if that wasn't enough, we also decided to get a new puppy around the same time (who ended up getting Parvo, but that's a WHOLE other story) because why not add a little more excitement and chaos to the mix?

Nights and weekends that weren't being spent at wedding showers and parties were spent on 56th Street. There was much to do. The house was built in 1959 and hadn't been updated since. We wore a clean path from our house to the Home Depot on May Ave. If our punch list felt like it was a mile long that's because it was.

We completely gutted the kitchen. The only thing left standing was our Sub-Zero fridge. You heard me right. This old house in crazy need of a remodel came complete with one fancy damn refrigerator. If I told you I wasn't excited being upgraded from the old poop brown Frigidaire, I'd be lying.

But after my mother saw the gut job on the kitchen, she became nervous. Later she confided that she was worried if the Golfer knew how to put it back together again. After all, the gut job had sent him to a doctor friend's house for stitches and lost his thumb nail while working on the can lighting.

The kitchen wasn't the only room needing to be remodeled. There wasn't a corner of that house that we didn't redo in some way. We painted and wallpapered and added cedar beams. There were new bathroom cabinets, a new front door, built-in bookshelves in our office area, and new lighting everywhere you looked. We put in glass front cabinets in the kitchen and cute window treatments throughout. I learned how to grout and attempted to tile (um...they were crooked and had to be redone.) I picked out colors and fabrics for second hand furniture we had picked up here and there. We stretched our pennies to their absolute limit and proudly paid for the whole thing in cash.

before: the kitchen

before: looking into the kitchen from den/family room

during: still standing in the den, looking into the what used to be the kitchen and eventually would be again (can you see why my mother would be concerned?)

during: kitchen starting to slowly look like a kitchen again

during: proud of my bathroom grout

during: Daisy was a great helper...until she got Parvo

There are moments I look back on that time in our lives and wonder how we did it. How in the world had we not fought, not even once, throughout the whole process? I guess there was just no room or time for getting frustrated or stressed (I saved it all up for two days before the wedding. That too is a WHOLE other story.) We were happy and excited to be starting our married lives together in this house. We would come home from our honeymoon to this house, celebrate the Golfer's 30th birthday in this house, bring home our first baby to this house, and suffer the loss of the Golfer's father in this house. We had purchased a three bedroom, two bath, 1700 square foot fixer upper (before fixer uppers were the cool thing to do and before HGTV even existed) and we approached the remodel like we would our marriage, excited and hopeful for what was and what would come next. 

Turns out, fixer uppers would become our thing. Even if they really don't need fixing up, we can't help but put our own personal touches on each of our homes. As a friend and relator called it, we Freemanize it.

We're pretty damn good at Freemanizing the crap out of a house. It's kinda what we do.

after: new front door, paint, and tile

after: living room with new cedar beams, french doors, and concrete floors

after: den/family room with new paint, cedar beams and mantel (and such a teeny tiny T.V.)

after: the kitchen put all back together again, complete with cute cafe curtains

Decorating our first tree together, Christmas 2000, a hand-me-down tree from the Golfer's mom. A little full...

Next on the tour: Moving back to Norman and into the cutest house in town

A Home Tour: The Pickard House

This Friday the Golfer and I will have been married for 16 years. For a big bulk of those years our lives were slightly unsettled due to my husband's career change which moved us to the west coast. In our married lives we have lived in six homes (two of those homes being condos, but we will call them homes just to make things easier.) Some of these homes have been good, a couple I loved, and a couple I hated. They are all a part of our story.

One of my best childhood friends, Kim, did a really cool thing over on her blog a while back. She spent a few posts sharing the homes that she and her husband had lived in and what their lives were like in each home. I loved reading these posts. Even though I knew the homes and the stories, I loved reading her perspective on how their lives and their marriage has progressed through each move. A few days ago I started reading the book Love the Home you Have by Melissa Michaels and she does something similar in her book talking about her homes and what she learned from each.

So now it's my turn.

But instead of starting with the Golfer and I's first home, I've decided to start with MY very first home. I loved my little house on Pickard Street and it is certainly part of my story that shouldn't be left out.

My very first home that was all mine was a fabulous blank canvas that I took great pride in decorating all by my 23 year old self. I was young but I knew what I wanted. The entire house was white, inside and out. Like I said, a blank canvas. (The pic above is an "after" photo.)

At the time I stumbled on the Pickard house, I was a recent college graduate living in a one-bedroom apartment across town. The Golfer and I were in a season of breaking up, getting back together again, then breaking up again. I had finally gotten a job teaching making a pitiful little salary. I found the Pickard house on a drive by. It was a Sunday Open House and by that evening the house was mine. (Technically, the house was my father's. I was a first year teacher and had no money. My dad graciously rented the house to me, all responsibilities for the house being mine.) Renting vs. owning aside, as far as I was concerned the house was mine to do with what I wished. And so I did.

My little Pickard house was simple. There were wood floors throughout, the living room and dining room I painted a buttercream yellow, my bedroom was a light mint green. I had a guest room and an office and one tiny bathroom. There were built-in china cabinets in the little dining room and after a while of living there, I got a wild hair to paint the inside of the cabinets a fun color. I had left over mint green paint from my bedroom, so I used that inside of taking the time and money to buy more paint. It wasn't the cutest, but my great grandmother's Desert Rose dishes really did pop against that green.

The decor was sparse and a little mismatched, most coming from local antique stores, garage sales and my mother's hand-me-downs. On the outside I put up black shutters, planted impatiens in the flower bed and put an adirondack bench on the front porch that I actually sat in from time to time. The kitchen was small and had no dishwasher. All that took was saying something to my grandfather about how I was going to have to learn to wash dishes and, wouldn't you know it, a few days later a dishwasher was delivered to my front door. Those grandfathers have a soft spot for us granddaughters don't they?

I was proud of that little home. I hosted a baby shower there for my step-sister (that baby, my nephew and godson, is graduating from high school this year) and a wedding shower for Kim. I decorated my first Christmas tree there and graded papers there. I didn't care that my refrigerator was the color of poop brown or that there was a huge hole in my lower kitchen cabinets after installing the dishwasher (both of which would totally drive me to drink today.) I earned my Master's degree in this house and got engaged in this house. I was only in my Pickard house for three years, but those are three years that I am grateful for. I lived alone, had to take care of things myself, which I now see was great practice for the life I have now.

I try not to drive by my Pickard house when I'm back home in Norman. It's too upsetting. The last time I saw it the yard was over grown and they had painted the outside a horrible tan color and my black shutter were a weird shade of blueish purple. And of course all I can think is, why did they do that to my house?

Because in my heart, the Pickard house will always be mine.

My first Christmas tree on Pickard Street.

Me and Kim and my mint green china cabinets.

Party hosting in my little kitchen, 1997.

Next on the tour... Our First Home: 56th Street

They were good ideas at the time.

I was cleaning out a cabinet the other day and found a binder that I made several years ago titled, "Good Things Everyone Should Know." It's filled with all sorts of Martha Stewart-y ideas. Good Things for entertaining, for holidays, for decorating, for gardening. All Good.

I made that binder years ago with the intention that it would all come in handy one day. I took great care in the binder's creation, pages and pages that had been ripped out of magazines had been collecting and needed a home. Each page was careful placed inside a protective cover before being filed away under the correct tab inside of the binder. I used to be really good at ripping things out of magazines. Really Good.

As any good planner knows, you plan for both the now and for the later. Most of the pages that I ripped out in my 20's were planning for the later. For when I was married. For when I had kids. For when we purchased our first home. Our second home. And finally our "forever" home. There were lots of things in that binder I knew I wouldn't be using for quite a while. But by damn, when I finally was ready it would be waiting for me in that binder.

Now I'm in my 40's with a teenager, a pre-teen and in that "forever" house that I had planned for. (And by forever I am referring to until my kids are done with college and we can move to the beach.) Nevertheless, this is our BIG house. The house that I was always waiting on. The house itself is far from perfect but the people I love who live inside come pretty damn close.

I started to flip through the binder and quickly realized that the life that I had planned on never arrived. This binder that I created to come in handy one day never has. According to these pages, I was supposed to be doing a lot of gardening and baking and entertaining and other things that just have never come to pass. So many of these pages for when "we had more money" or "the kids were older" or "we have a bigger house." Truth is, we don't entertain in a manner that required monogrammed napkins that need to be dry cleaned. I don't really like to garden and large table decorations for each holiday are more trouble than they're worth. All of the baking ideas are only making me fat and the kid craft ideas were always too much damn prep and effort for two boys who really don't care about crafting. This binder is for someone else's life, not mine.

So I started to empty the binder. Some of the ideas were worth keeping and were put into other binders. (Yes, there are other binders.) But the majority of the pages went directly into the recycling bin. This isn't the life that I had planned for when I put this binder together. If I had that life I would be completely exhausted. Truth is, this binder was very high maintenance. This binder would require multiple wives and a shit ton of money to create.

I have neither.

I raised a ravenous reader & I couldn't be more proud.

Dear Bentley,

I'm having a hard time wrapping my brain around the fact that you are turning 14 tomorrow. 14 seems like such a big number. 14 means high school. 14 is only two years away from driving and four years away from college. I'm not sure that I'm ready. Nobody bothered to ask me if I was ready. Nobody asked if I was prepared. And yet, here it is.

You didn't realize it, but last night we shared a moment. It was bedtime and I stopped by your door to check on you. You were reading.

"It's time for bed," I told you.

"I know," you mumbled from behind your book. "Just a few more pages."

You had told me earlier that evening all about the book you are reading. It was one of the many you had picked out when we went to Vroman's in Pasadena. (Yes, there had been quite a large stack that I happily bought for you.) You talked about how much you liked it. I half listened, too occupied by my own thoughts to focus on the plot you were retelling, too busy thinking about how grateful I am that you are a reader.

You come by your reading excitement naturally. It's part of your DNA. When I was busy making your body in my body, I read a total of nine novels. I got hooked on Oprah's Book Club books reading one book for each month I was pregnant with you. It didn't do it on purpose. That's just the way it ended up working out. Honestly, I never felt well enough to do much more than read. I drank smoothies from Jamba Juice, ate Kentucky Fried Chicken, and read books. We quietly read together every day. Your were reading via osmosis. Reading by association.

I'll always remember the moment you became a reader. Not when you learned how to read. That's something totally different. I remember when you first fell into a book and didn't want to come out. For Valentine's Day that year, I bought you Diary of a Wimpy Kid. You ended up taking the book with us to one of Dad's golf tournaments, finishing the whole book before the first round was even over. You devoured it the same way your little brother can devour an entire bag of Sun Chips. You loved every single bite. Thank goodness the next two books in the series had already been published because you could hardly wait to read more. Before you and your brother were born I made a strong parental declaration. There was one thing that I would never deny either of you: Books. We took you that next weekend to buy the next two Wimpy Kid books, which you ate up just as quickly as the first.

And then came Harry. I wasn't surprised at all that you fell hard for Harry Potter. I just never imagined that you would read the whole series twice. Even though you've completed the series all the way through and back again, I could go into your room tomorrow and see that you've randomly started the fifth book again ...just because. Dad and I feel weird having to tell you to stop reading Harry and pick up something different. And of course, because you're a good kid who listens to your parents, you have. You've read many books in your 14 years and once you get into a book there's no getting you out. "Did you fall in?" I'll ask you when you get into the car after school and immediately get out the book to start reading. And you'll just smile, say yes, and open the book.

Yes, I'm not at all surprised that you are a reader. I take all of the credit. However, Wimpy Kid creator, Jeff Kinney, and J.K. Rowling of Harry Potter fame probably deserve some of the credit too. And don't forget Oprah. Yes, Oprah deserves some credit too. But mostly me. This is one that I will proudly claim. You are my ravenous reader, my sweet 14 year old boy. Happy birthday. I pray you will be hungry for years to come.


I am a crafty creator.

:: bookmark fever ::

I'm a chronic crafter. I need something crafty in my life at all times.

My list of craft habits is long. There's a huge tub in the garage filled with yarn and buttons, felt and Mod Podge glue, dowel rods and jingle bells. I have plenty of colored pencils, washi tape and rubber stamps. I've taught myself to needlepoint, decoupage, and embroidery.

I am not an expert in any of these areas. I have friends who are craftier and much more talented than I will ever be. And yet, I continue to craft for no other reason than the happiness it brings.

Scrapbooking used to be one of my craft habits. What girl doesn't like to play with stickers and paper and fancy scissors? I had scrapbooks of our honeymoon and baby album scrapbooks. Scrapbooks of remodeling our first home and scrapbooks of Derek's first National Championship win. My husband has mentioned more than once that I could have fed a small country for the amount of money I have spent on scrapbooking supplies.

In the early stages of motherhood, I wandered into a needlepoint store close to my home. I bought several canvases, including a darling Christmas design which I just finished a couple of months ago. I started the canvas in 2004. It turned out really cute. Maybe not 11 years to finish cute, but cute nonetheless.

I convinced my mother to take a knitting class with me once. The knitting students sat in a circle on hard fold-up chairs, very apropos, my mother doing equal amounts of laughing and bitching that she was doing it wrong. I can still knit a square or rectangle like nobody's business, but that's the extent of my knitting knowledge. I knitted a sweet babies receiving blanket for a best girlfriend once and have given scarves as gifts to family members who have to like them. Chunky scarves are in style, but unfortunately I live in a climate where they really aren't necessary. Not that that keeps us Californians from wearing them. Any temp below 75 degrees and we are whipping out our sweaters and chunky scarves faster than the traffic on the 405.

I recently started making cross-stitch bookmarks. You remember cross-stitch don't you? That thing you learned in Girl Scouts or Camp Fire Girls while trying to earn your Creative Arts Appreciation badge? I decided to return to my crafty roots and relearn how to cross stitch. (Although let's face it, it's totally like riding a bike. You never really forget.) The best girlfriend I made the baby blanket for had given me and several of our other friends a special book mark a couple years back. She cross stitched them with our college nicknames, of which we still call each other, making them even more special. Needing something new to craft, I decided to copy her design and start making my own. Not for me to keep of course, but to give away.

Crafting to me is only fun if others appreciate it, which in my case means giving my crafts away as gifts. I decided to make bookmarks as valentines for all of my son's teachers (of which he has four.) This sent me on a trip to Jo-Ann's where I ended up purchasing enough thread, fabric and ribbon to make bookmarks for most of Southern California. (Bookmarks for everyone! You get a bookmark! And YOU get a bookmark!) I also bought a box in which to organize all of my thread. I spent days winding thread around little white cards, placing them in the box in a beautiful color-coded display. When I say days, I literally mean days. Because if you're going to make bookmarks for all of Southern California, you need to be organized.

I ended up making really cute Pac-Man bookmarks for the boys' valentines this year. They have recently gotten into retro, 80's era video games so I thought they'd appreciate the sentiment. They problem with sentiment and pre-teen/teen boys is that they have yet to develop the sentimentality gene. I cross stitched their bookmarks knowing full well that they might not love them as much as I wanted them to love them.

Did they jump up and down when they saw their bookmarks? No, of course not. They grinned, asked if I had made them, and that was that. Happy Valentine's Day. My oldest informed me that he wanted to leave his at home, didn't want anything to happen to it at school. I got it. He did want to be the dork that pulled out a homemade bookmark at junior high that his mother made him. Totally got it. My youngest, however, had no issue taking his to school.

"Mom, I used my new bookmark at school today. I like it. It's cool. Could you make me one with something about golf on it?"

Uh, yeah!

Bookmarks for everyone!!!

The safest place to be.


I read a quote once that said, “The safest place to be in life is close to Jesus.” Sunday mornings  at church are all about growing closer to Jesus. One Sunday morning back in October, we had the opportunity to be out in our community serving others instead of being at our regular church service. Be Out There Sunday. My family signed up to serve at Family Promise, a non-profit that serves the needs of homeless families in our community, doing some deep cleaning inside their resource center. We arrived that morning prepared with all of our gloves and cleaning supplies. What I wasn’t prepared for was for the families that we were serving to be there.

The boys and I quickly got to work cleaning, wiping down walls and door frames. While on my hands and knees cleaning the baseboards, some of the children of the families sat crammed together on couches in front of a little TV. I was quickly overcome with emotion, imagining what these children have to experience being homeless. The significance of my posture, of my being on my hand and knees, wasn’t lost on me. I could have been sitting in a comfortable seat in church, but I'm so glad I wasn’t. I’ll be honest; I don’t like cleaning my own baseboards let alone someone else’s, but that Sunday I cleaned those baseboards with nothing but joy in my heart. What a privilege it was to bring a small blessing to these families.

I couldn’t have been closer to Jesus in that moment if I had tried.

Being healthy is all about moderation. Too much of anything isn’t good for us. This includes being consumed by too much of ourselves and our own problems. Serving gets us out of ourselves. Serving others keeps us balanced. It reminds us that it’s not just about us. I receive so much more from life when I serve the least. We have such great examples of this at our church. The team leaving tomorrow for Chacocente is going to serve the least. The families signing up to serve meals to Family Promise are serving the least. The youth collecting a special offering this Sunday for local organizations that feed the hungry are serving the least.

In Matthew 25:40 Jesus tells us, “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” If the safest place in life we can be is close to Jesus, then it's safe to say we should all be serving others as often as we can.

Nothing puts us closer to Jesus than serving those whom He loves.

Last entry from a series of posts I am writing for my church family.

Does it spark joy?

from the fabulous site, one kings lane

I have spent much of the last month de-cluttering my house. January always seems like a good time to do this. Clean out the old while welcoming the new year. In the midst of my de-cluttering, I stumbled upon a book. The Life-ChangingMagic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo has become a best seller, proving that we are in constant search for the best way to clean up our lives.

The premise of the book can be boiled down to one simple question: Does it spark joy? In other words, do the items in your home—in your closet, on your shelves, in your cabinets—make you happy? If not, get rid of them to make more room for the things that do. It seemed like a weird question at first when sorting through shirts and pairs of pants in my closet, but then I began to see how much sense the question made. Why should I keep in my life if it doesn’t make me happy?

There are so many things that we hang on to that don’t make us happy. When it comes to de-cluttering, we have to examine our internal lives as well as the external. Clutter doesn’t just fill our closets and cabinets but our hearts and minds as well. We clutter our lives with all sorts of junk that keeps us from being our best. Junk that makes us unhappy, keeping us from fully being whom God intends. Fasting is one way we can eliminate the bad to make way for the good. Fasting is a way that we can de-clutter our lives.

James 4:8 says, “Come near to God and he will come near to you.” (NIV) Sometimes the clutter is blocking our way. We need to remove the clutter to make more room for God in our lives. Fasting is about repentance and simplicity. It’s about recognizing the junk that we have allowed to keep us from God and get rid of complexities of life that distract us. Choosing to fast is choosing to remove some clutter allowing us to step closer to God so he can step closer to us. De-cluttering can change your life, de-cluttering can change your heart.

Continued from a series of posts I am writing for my church.

It's all about connecting.

Continued from a series of posts I am writing for my church... 

As we focus on both spiritual and physical health during the Cross Training series, I can’t help but be grateful for choices.  Filling out my challenge log, I love having all of the different choices listed. When it comes to exercise, we have plenty to choose from. Some people are runners. Some people love Pilates and yoga. Some people like training for triathlons. So many great options and none of them are wrong.

I have my own forms of exercise that I enjoy, but it took me a while to find what worked for me. For a long time I exhausted myself exercising in ways that other people loved but I hated. Someone I knew got healthy walking five miles a day, so I tried that. Someone I knew couldn’t stop talking about the benefits of water aerobics, so I tried that. I tried lots of different things that seemed to be working great for other people, but when I was honest with myself, none of it was working for me.

Worshipping our Lord is a lot like exercise in this instance. The way someone else might choose to worship might not work for you. Everyone exercises and worships in his or her own way, and in truth, there’s no wrong way to do it. As long as you are spending time each day exercising, as long as you are spending time each day worshipping, it doesn’t matter what you’ve chosen to do or how you’ve chosen to do it. It only matter that you’re actively participating in the way that works best for you.

We all have a longing to connect with God. Lucky for us, God’s presence is always with us, not just in one unique place. For some people, that connecting includes raising hands and singing with others. For other people that connection includes a quiet place to meditate alone. It really doesn’t matter how or where were we are connecting. What matters is that the connecting is happening.

I love the story of Jesus and the woman at the well in John 4:1-26. Near the end of that story the woman shares with Jesus that she’s confused about where she should be worshipping. Jesus’ response is the best and truly says it all.

“It’s who you are and the way you live that count before God. Your worship must engage your spirit in the pursuit of truth. That’s the kind of people the Father is out looking for: those who are simply and honestly themselves before him in their worship. Those who worship him must do it out of their very being, their spirits, their true selves, in adoration.” (John 4:23-24, The Message)

That Jesus. He really had a way with words.