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Friday, June 10, 2016

Navy Boot Camp Thoughts...

So, Mom, how do you feel about this decision?”…This is a question I was forced to answer many times after my son, David, said that he was joining the Navy.  This was in November of 2015. My answer was always the same,I am trusting  God  and know that He has a plan for himand I know David  needs to do something.”  Good answer, right? Right. Except in my head, I was thinking, “It isn’t happening until Aprilhe will be on a new path by then. A safe path that will keep him here.  With the family.  God’s plan will overrule and this is not the plan He has for David.“
I really thought that David’s decision was a reaction to reading “Lone Survivor” or possibly “American Sniper.” But as I listened to him plan and talk and think out loudI did think that maybe this was the “something” he was serious about.  Maybe this really was the something he needed to do.  But for my own emotional protection, I did not allow myself to dwell in that reality for long.
And yet, as April 11th loomed before us, David never changed his mind.  After the friends and family goodbye he was still signed on and after the family and dogs goodbye he was immovable. And suddenly, it was April 9th and we would have to drop him off at the Recruit station the next morning.
I planned and executed the parties, the games, the celebrationsthe hugs goodbyemy thoughts were completely busy with the plans and then suddenly it was over and it was Sunday and  we were in the car headed for the Navy Recruit Station.  The ride was quiet, with occasional comments between my husband and our son. “I told Chris he could borrow my ice chest and the kayak if he wants to.”  “Did you hear about(insert any sporting event here)” .
 This is when someone should have asked me how I felt about his decision.  Because my emotions were raw, and real.  As I got out of the car to hug him goodbye, I could feel myself shaking trying to control everything that was welling up inside my Momma’s heart.  And as he told me, “I love you, Mom.  I will try to make y’all proud,” my reserves almost gave way.  I felt like hanging on to him and begging him not to go.  And yet part of me was so scared that he wouldn’t go and that he would change his mind.  And when he told me that he hoped he would make us proud, I said, “You have always made us proud.”
It wasn’t until we got home that I allowed myself to cry. To really, really cry.  And I could not make anyone understand why I was crying.  My answer was still the same, I am trusting  God. And I know He has a plan for him. And yet all that my support group of friends and family could tell me were  things like, “This is a great opportunity!”  “Don’t be sad, he has made a decision about his future.”  “Marleea, he can’t live with you forever.  It is time he decided to do something.”
How does mom feel about this decision?  Well friends and family- I KNOW THAT IT IS THE RIGHT DECISION.  I was not sad because he joined the Navy.  I wasn’t even sad because he was moving across the country.  I was sad because he is no longer here.  He is no longer local and readily available.  Family lunches and gatherings will be missing him. His dad will not have anyone to talk to about sports 24/7.  He owns a piece of my heart and it moved away. 
That was part of it.
The other part was he was going to bootcamp.  Boot.Camp.  And then he would be in the Navy. America’s Navy.  What mom really wants her kid to experience either? 
I mean first of all- BootcampDon’t we generally protect our kids from that type of bullying?  Discipline? Rigorous training?
And then he will be a Sailor?  I don’t care if it isn’t “war time” right now.  “War time” is right around the corner. No one can say we are going to be at peace with the world for next six years.
How does momma feel about this decision?”  “I am trusting  God and know that He has a plan for David’s life.”
And trust in God I did.  There were days at work that I would feel panic creep up in my soul and I would pray.  I could not text David.  I could not call him.  I could only pray.  Pray and trust in the plan that God has.  And wait.  Wait for Thursday’s letter (after the 3rd week).  Wait for the random phone calls.  Wait for the “I am a Sailor” phone call announcing that he had passed everything and would be participating in the Pass in Review Graduation ceremony. Trust and wait.
And the call came.  And I was there as he marched into the hall with his division for his PIR ceremony.  I was there to see him march by…and search the stands for familiar faces.  I was there to hear the 600 plus Sailor Recruits recite “A Sailor’s Creed” and sing “Anchors Away”.  And I was there when the commander said, “Liberty! Liberty!”  And I exited the stadium as fast as possible to grab my son and hold him tight. (I had to beat his sister to him) And I looked at him.
And I saw my son.  My son who was a better man.  My son who had learned to  laugh with people he never met.  My son who had gained strength from a God that he had not walked close to in months.  My son.  My baby boy.  He stood before me, hugging me and I knew that he was now the man that the Navy had helped shape; but mostly he is becoming the man that God has created..  He was a Sailor.  He is happy and excited to fulfill his duty as a Seaman in America’s Navy. Thank you Navy for taking good care of him.  “I am trusting  God and know that He has a plan for David’s life.”  Praise you God for knowing that your plan is so much greater than mine.
During this weekend, I was reading a book by JoJo  Moyes.  In an excerpt from it she writes, “It’s just that the thing you never understand about being a mother, until you are one, is that the grown man—the galumphing, unshaven, stinking, opinionated offspring—you see before  you, with his parking tickets and unpolished shoes and complicated love life.  You see all the people he has ever been all rolled up into one.   I looked at Will and I saw the baby I held in my arms, dewily besotted, unable to believe that I had created another human being.  I saw the toddler, reaching for my hand, the schoolboy wheeping tears of fury after being bullied by some other child.  I saw the vulnerabilities, the love, the history…”
When I looked at David, all dressed in his Navy Whites, and later dressed in his tan and blacks (Peanut Butter they call it)- that is what I saw.  I saw the dark haired baby boy I was scared would never be born.  I saw the toddler who sucked his thumb and insisted on sitting by the air vent in the mini van because he liked  the way it made his blanket smell.  I saw the elementary and middle school strong willed boy who started a business selling his “stuff” in a way I can’t even describe.  The boy who talked and told stories all of the time.  The one I thought would never grow up.  The boy who played with pencils and made an entire universe with them in his mind. The boy with the imagination and dreams.  I saw the teenager who played sports with all of his heart.  The one who was robbed at gun point and his life took an immediate change.  I saw the boy who loved the Lord with all of his strength and all of his might- but had his faith rocked and challenged and I saw the man.  The man who is my son.  The man who is seeing that the God he followed does have a plan for his life.  And it is good.
On Saturday night, as we were checking Dave onto  his “ship” (aka- back onto base) I walked by a mom.  She had the same look on her face “what are we doing and where do we fit in?” 
“So mom, how do you feel about this decision? I am trusting in God and know that He has a plan for David.  And today, right now, in this moment I can see that Gods plan is greater than my own.

Thank you God and thank you Navy. Thank you God for America’s Navy please bless all of our armed forces

Monday, October 12, 2015

My New Life

I started a new job in January.  How I ever was offered the job is still a mystery in my mind.  I left my interview thinking, “Oh my gosh!  I can’t believe I said that.”  Of course, to be fair, that thought goes through my mind numerous times daily…so I guess the interview was not much different than my actual everyday life.

It was a whirlwind of movement for me.  I applied for the job on Jan. 10.  I interviewed on Jan. 13 and I was offered the job on Jan. 14.  On January 15, I turned 50 years old.  So, yes, at 50 years old, I started a new job. A new phase in my life. And I was scared to death.

My new position was to be an Administrative Assistant for one of the Assistant Principals at Temple High School.  Temple High School is huge…and full of kids.  They were everywhere.  All sorts of kids. Big ones, little ones, happy ones, angry ones, even some really scary ones. Some that want to be heard, some that want to be seen, and some that want to disappear.   Teenagers are fairly daunting when you face them one on one…but when they are in a small army they are, frankly, terrifying. Temple High School felt more like a small college to me… And I was hired to serve these kids and the amazing administrators who “direct” them, along with talented people who teach them.

I realized quickly that I was out of my comfort zone.  And I was not sure I was the right person for the job… Faced with a building (honestly several buildings) full of high school students, I quickly remembered how awkward I felt in high school.  I came face to face with young, insecure teenage Marleea. That girl had absolutely no self confidence. Always felt out of place. And was terrified of new places and faces.  At 50 years old, as I walked into a new high school ready to start a new job… all of my teenage fears and insecurities threatened to choke the breath out of me.

And then, my daughter in law showed up at my desk.  I was sitting and learning about my new job and my responsibilities… and someone walked in the office door, I looked up and saw my beautiful daughter-in-law.  As a teacher at a local elementary school, she had taken her “lunch time” to come see me!! She came bearing colorful sticky notes in a range of sizes.  A face of someone I love, in the middle of a sea of strangers who were now my co-workers and an ocean of frightening teenagers who were now my “kids”.  When I saw her, I knew I could make it through that first day for sure.  And I did.

And I made it through the next, and the next, and the next…until suddenly I realized that I was no longer scared.  I was no longer questioning whether or not I was going to be able to do this job.  I casually fell into a job that I feel like I have searched for all of my life.  It was soon glaringly apparent that the whirlwind was not a fluke…it was a movement in my life orchestrated by God.
I was immediately impressed by the administration that I was assisting, and how much they loved the kids.  I fell in love with the students.  All of them.  For real. Even the ones that make me want to throw dodge balls at them just to get their attention.  Or shake them until their teeth rattle.  Or sit in front of them with tears streaming down my face begging them to make different choices.  When it comes to the kids at Temple High School, I am all in. They are now my babies.  I love their faces.  I love when they knock on my window just to wave at me.  I am blessed every time they come into my office to say “Hi Miss!”  I love taking care of them.
Talking to them while they sit in my office waiting to talk to Mr. Korompai, it is so easy to recognize now that they are all scared.  They are all insecure.  They all don’t feel like they fit in. They are all awkward.  Like puppies sort of…all arms and legs and all over the place on the emotional spectrum.  And they each disguise these feelings in different ways. And I recognize teenage me.  And I wish she could know then what I know now.
All teenagers don’t react well when they are faced with the day to day challenges. They don’t bend to authority.  They can’t make it to class in the 6 minutes given during each changing period. They don’t respond respectfully. They use colorful language. They get loud.  They get angry. And each teacher tries to continue to manage a classroom while dealing with these kids who are fighting against something they don’t recognize or even understand. And when all the tricks of the classroom fail, the teacher sends them to our office. Some we see often. Once they enter our office, they become one of mine. They are a student that needs something.  And I love them.  Completely.  Unconditionally. And I believe in them.  Completely.  Unconditionally. And I make it my goal to make sure that they know it.

I started my job terrified of my boss, but I was immediately amazed with the ease and the calmness he has when he deals with discipline.  As I watched him work, and listened to him deal with students…my fear of him was replaced with a deep respect.  And I began to realize that I could work well with him.  And that I could learn a lot from him. And I do.

And I learn something from the kids.  Every day. Recently, one of my aides came in to my office to just say hi.  He asked the aide I have during that particular class period, “Is this your favorite class?” When my aide confirmed that it was indeed his favorite class, my first period aide said, “Mine too.” I told them both that technically being an office aide is not a class.  I said, “I don’t teach you anything.”  And my first period aide replied, “Yes you do!! You teach us life lessons.”  No, buddy, that is what y’all teach me.

I love how they all want to know my name, but still call me “Miss.” My heart is full when they call me Mom; and even more so when I hear them tell their friends that I am their momma.  I love when they come in and call Mr. Korompai “my Dad.”  I love when they tell me I am “Clutch”… I love the kids at Temple High School.

 This last week our kids received their first report cards for the year.  And one of our girls came into my office, handed me her report card and said, “Hey Mom!  I just wanted you to see how great your baby girl is doing!” And guess what? She is my baby girl.

I read so many blogs, articles, and posts by people and about people who are so much more gifted than me…people who have been blessed with a passion for those in our world who are lost and needy. They travel all over the world to minister to those in need.  They teach these people the power in the name of Jesus. They minister to the people who need food or just clean drinking water.  They work with children living in orphanages with no parents, some even work for years to make these children a part of their families. People who minister to families who are refugees…People who haul supplies halfway across the world to minister to the needs of others. The physical, emotional and spiritual needs of others.   And I am in awe of these people. They are all rock stars in my mind.  I pray for them.  I repeat their stories to people.  I give them money. But I have not been called to that ministry.

And yet daily, I look into the precious eyes of children who need hope…I want to give them hope. I want them to know love and security and acceptance.  I want bring them home, into my family… to love. To feed.  To protect. To raise.  I talk to them.  I give them water.  I get hugs from them.  I wipe their tears.  And I listen to them. But what I really want is to show them Jesus.  I want them to know the saving grace that only comes from a relationship with Him.  I want them to know that if I come through in a “clutch” for them, it is only because I am a child of God. I pray every day that these kids see Jesus in me.

A couple of weeks ago the emotional toil and stress of our offices was high.  It was a very hard week. The brokenness of human nature was apparent; and in this broken state, our administrators were forced to bring calm out of the chaos. Teachers were expected to instruct in the midst of these situations. And day after day they came through with shining colors.

Our schools are a mission field.  And daily gifted missionaries go to work in them.  As teachers, administrators, staff, nurses, janitors and food service workers.  They walk in the doors of school buildings and spend time, face to face with the future of this nation.  Sharing our faith is limited by the laws; but showing Jesus is limitless.  Our hands are tied in many ways, however, we have opportunities that are overwhelming every day.  My daily prayer is that I seize every opportunity that God gives me to impact any life that I come in contact with.
I love my job.  I love the change my life took in January when somehow, through a bumbling interview, I was given this opportunity.  I have learned so much from these students and from the amazing people I work with.

During my interview I was asked about my strengths, my weaknesses and an area in my life that I would like to see improvement. All three of them were difficult to answer, and after the interview, I certainly felt I could have done a better job at articulating my thoughts.  But the answer that stands out in my mind was the area where I needed improvement.  My answer:  “In my faith.  I think I can always grow in my walk with Christ.”  Who knew the growth that would be provided through a job at Temple High School, in a tiny office in the L Wing surrounded by all sorts of teenagers?

Monday, January 5, 2015

An Open Letter to 14 year old me...

An Open Letter to 14 year old me
 Disclaimer: First of all, let me state up front, I am not really sure what “An Open Letter” means… I just see this title on blogs periodically: “An Open Letter to My Daughter.” “An Open Letter to My Son”. “An Open Letter to the Girls in My Son’s Life.” “An Open Letter to Johnny Manziel.”  So I am assuming that it is a fancy way of titling your blog, so that everyone knows they can read it even though this is already a blog that everyone can openly read.
Second of all, I will tell you what has inspired me to write an “An Open Letter to 14 Year Old Me”.  I will turn 50 in less than two weeks.  While the number “50” seems sort of daunting, I don’t dread it.  I am comfortable with what being a 50 year old means in my life.  I love my family, being a mother of grown kids, being a mother-in-law, being a grandmother and getting to spend time with our parents and my nieces and nephews.  However, turning a half a century has given me pause to look back over my life and think of the life lessons I have learned.  Some of which I have just come to realize, while others I am still learning. 
Our oldest niece on my side of the family turned 14 in December.  We waited and prayed anxiously for her for many years as my sister struggled with infertility. She is the precious child who gave me the name “MarZ,” and the one who stole my heart at first sight.  She is funny, and beautiful, and talented… and the oldest of three girls- each equally prayed for and as funny, and beautiful, and talented. And thankfully she has been joined in the  “niece/nephew” category by the Cali kids… a boy, a girl, and a girl… all of which we prayed for… and all of which are funny, beautiful and talented. But the oldest one,  she is 14.  FOURTEEN. The age when every girl decides that Britney Spear’s “I’m Not a Girl Not Yet a Woman” was written specifically for them. I remember being 14. (Many, many years before Brit’s song)  I remember thinking like my niece does right now.  But I was so very wrong.  I was a girl.  I was not close to being a woman!  And there are so many lessons I have learned during my life (which is about to hit the half century mark) that I wish I had known as a girl who was rushing to become a woman.  This is just a few of them… and while this open letter is to me as a 14 year old.  I dedicate it to my five nieces and one nephew who are still girls and a boy.  Who still have a long way to go, lots of fun to explore, and many roads to cross before they are women and a man.  I love you each more than you know, Reagan, Preslee, Bella, Haidyn, Zoe and of course Jordan. I hope that you can learn from my lessons!
Aunt MarZ

Dear 14 year old Marleea,
I am you, at 50 years old (almost).   I have lived 36 years since the time you turned 14.  And while that is such a long time… a life time really; it happened in the blink of an eye. And there are lessons I have learned that I wish you knew at 14.
First of all- I want you to know that your mom is the coolest.  And the best. For.Real.  I know that you think most of your friends think she is awesome, but you have such a hard time believing in her confidence in you.   Believe her when she tells you that you are beautiful.  Take her words to heart when she tells you that you are special.
 And on top of that? Your dad is amazing. He is fun.  And he will laugh with you forever.  Plus, if you need anything- he is the rock.  Rest in the knowledge and the confidence that your mom and your dad love you unconditionally.  Even when you disappoint them.  Even when you hurt them.  Even when you treat them horribly (which you do)- they love you.  They forgive you.  They are there for you. 
Being popular or in the “cool kid” group isn’t really worth it.  You have 5 more years of school.  And while it seems like your whole life right now, it isn’t.  Being nice to everyone.  Being who God made you.  Those are way more important than trying to be part of a group that will cease to exist once you walk across the graduation stage.  But some of the people who you did not hang out with, but that you were nice to, those people may end up being some of your best friends later in life. And so very often the friends you have in the popular group make you feel bad about yourself, and yet when you do grow up, you realize that often you were just oversensitive, or they were the ones that needed positive encouragement.  And the only way they could feel positive about themselves is breaking others around them down. It is such a clear picture to me now.
Which leads me to this next point: Don’t surround yourself with friends who make you feel unimportant.  Or like you need to change something about yourself.  Or like you just don’t add up to them.  Find new friends.  Girls you can laugh at yourself with.  Girls that will laugh at themselves with you.
Don’t let a boy give you self worth.  That is dangerous on so many levels.  First of all, it gives him too much power over you.  And you are both too young to handle that sort of power. Dangerous lines will be crossed if you allow a boy to have this much power over you… Notice I said, “will be crossed…” not “could be crossed.” Don’t place your trust and heart in the hands of someone else.  Not yet.  Not now.  Give it a few years.  Hard? Yes.  But worth it?  I think it would save you a ton of heart ache.
Your faith in Christ does set you apart.  It does make you different.  But it does not make you weird, or strange.  It is what should sustain you.  It is what you should use as a plumb line to make all of your decisions.  Christ is in your heart.  He is the great counselor.  Don’t stuff your faith away to bring back out when you are an “adult”.  Keep it as the focus of your life.  This will save you from many mistakes and heartaches.  He will never steer you wrong.  And if you place your confidence in Christ and the acceptance He has given you, you don’t have to worry about the acceptance of the cool kids or a boy.  No better source of confidence can be found than that found in a walk with Jesus Christ.
Not being coordinated, a good dancer, a cheerleader, or an athlete is not the end of the world.  Being a “P.E. Nerd” does not ruin your life.  In fact, you will learn to laugh at it later.  It gives you character.  And stories.  And new friends.
Most of the people who are athletes in high school are really no different than you.  They have a gift, and they are using it- on the basketball court, football field, baseball field, track or as a cheerleader. Just because you do not excel in these areas does not mean that you are “less than” the athletes.  If you will explore your talents:  cooking, being creative, loving people… your strengths will carry you for the rest of your life.  You might not be able to make a layup, but as a sophomore in Home Economics, you will be the only one that can make perfect gravy.  And let me tell you that is a talent that will follow you forever. Years down the road your sons and son-in-law will request that you make cheese gravy for them every time they come to your house. So don’t be ashamed of those talents and wish your life away wanting to be the girl who can dance, cheer and play basketball (or any other sport for that matter).  Learn to laugh at your weaknesses and shine in your strengths.
Your sister and your brother are your best friends.  They will be there for you from now on.  Even when you do find that “perfect” husband, and have those “amazing” kids… they will be the ones who are there for you to stand in and fill in the gaps.  They will be the ones to pick you up and give you a firm talking to.  They will be the ones to love your through it…all of it. Cultivate those relationships now.  Enjoy the fact that you can spend time with them all of the time, even when they are annoying.  One day soon, you will not get to see them every day.  You won’t get to talk to them whenever you want to …one day your heart will break when you have to hug them good bye.  And it will ache because you want to see them so badly.
There will be a time when your Daddy walks into your room after midnight and jerks the lime green phone out of the wall because you have been caught breaking the rules:  1. Calling a boy.  2. Lying .  (“I am talking to Crystal.”) 3. Breaking the 10 p.m. phone curfew.  When that happens, you are going to be so mad at your daddy!  You are going to only see the injustice.  How unfair it is!  You are going to think that you are the only girl who can’t call boys.  The only girl who can’t talk on the phone until all hours of the night.  You will think your parents are strict and unreasonable. But you can not be further from the truth. Your mom and dad are the best. They are doing everything in their power to protect you… and when you are raising your own kids, you are going to wish and wonder how to have those same rules, because technology has surpassed parenting boundaries.  It is wonderful.  It sucks. Mostly it sucks.  You will have to deal with the changes… but you will be thankful for the boundaries that your mom and dad held firm for you.
Look for a man that completes you.  Not one that competes with you.  Look for one that tells you that he loves you so much more than you love him.  One that treats you with respect. A man who appreciates your talents and is proud to be your man.  Look for a man who realizes that with you, he has more than he deserves.  Don’t settle.  Don’t accept a man that always tries to make you feel how lucky you are to be with him.  Ditch those boys immediately.  Eventually you will find the perfect man.  The one who tells you how much more he loves  you than you could ever love him… the one that you want to make happy, and the one that wants to make all of your dreams come true. (Don’t worry, it does happen)
Most important: your faith and your family… they will all lead you towards making good decisions.  Choices that don’t cause you to feel you have to be dishonest.  Trust them above everything.  And remember, you are a girl. You aren’t a woman.  And you have the rest of your life to be a woman. Enjoy being a girl.
Soon to be,

50 Year Old You

Friday, September 5, 2014

Everything in between Part One

Everything in between
but it is everything in between that makes it worth living.”

Preface: My summer, after my incredible trip, has been a whirlwind…mostly of faith trying moments, and incredible grief…all of which I want to share, eventually… but I have decided I want to finish what I have started… a blog about the blessed trip I was allowed to make this summer…with my amazing brother and sister-in-law, my beautiful and incredibly funny nieces and unbelievably handsome and sweet nephew… and their awesome and fun friends who accepted me as one of their own and showed me such kindness… It is nice to focus on happy thoughts for a bit.
Camping with the Cox’s is an art.  I am not kidding.  Everyone knows their roles, their duties, their chores… and let me tell you, crap gets done in a timely manner. Trailer is loaded. Last minute additions are made.  Car is organized and ready to go.  Kids are sleeping and have their stuff ready to go.  Ice chest loaded with everything we need to eat and drink on the road. And it is strategically placed where my sister-in-law can reach it with minimal effort. She is prepared for meals and snacks on the road, and even has a cutting board packed into her bag of food for the day (which is also packed near her feet)… it is like traveling with a circus… no questions and no gaps.  Michelle makes lists, lots of lists… I wanted to get a photo of one, but I was not able to find one of my favorites.  Most of her lists have a box beside the “to do item” and she checks the box as she gets each job completed.  They make her happy.  She makes me happy.
I am not sure what time we actually went to sleep the night before we left; the two hour time change is always a challenge for me.  I am sure that when I woke up, it was still very dark… and I was so excited that I had no idea if I was still exhausted.  I think that is the feeling I took with me the entire trip, which explains why, during the month of August, I have been exhausted.
We woke up- got dressed- finished loading- pulled the kids out of bed and put them in their car seats- and pulled out of town. We watched the sun rise as we started our adventure… I believe the hour was 5:15 a.m.
First stop? San Francisco!!! We monitored our time, our route and our estimated time for arrival on iPads and iPhones… we had a healthy breakfast of granola  bars, peanut butter sandwiches and salami and cheese (all of which were also our lunch grazing- mixed with a variety of chips for snacking…HEAVEN!!!) And we drove along the coast of California…as we drove, I began to understand why people build houses knowing full well that a mud slide might not only destroy their home, but take their lives.  I am in love.  I want to move to California. I want to live on the beach. Or in a houseboat in the small community on the other side of Golden Gate Bridge.  Or in one of the colorful, tiny, homes nestled in the rolling hills.
Landscape changes are quick and amazing as you drive through Cali.  You can be in what seems like dead rolling hills with patches of green Oak trees one minute and the next you are driving by rolling hills of lush strawberry crops or incredible grape orchids that are attached to quaint wineries…and then, suddenly, you are back on the coast line again… looking out over the water and the beaches and the different types of housing that have been built along it.

Our arrival at our first destination was late in the afternoon… everyone was stir crazy from being in the car for over 7 hours, and we were just ready to be uncaged. Camp set up for Brandon and Michelle is just as amazing to watch as their preparation for departure… they are a team.  And as a team, they accomplish their goals swiftly!!  I had the blessing of playing outside with the kids while they got us settled in and ready to head into town

The only "list" I could find to take a picture of on the morning of departure... must have been a last minute list... the others had their boxes checked off and were in the trash.  She obviously did not have time for "box checking" on this one!

Final departure preps underway... I believe we were 15 minutes behind schedule...
Just a snap shot of how our scenery changed... California is beautiful.
I am not sure what the quality of this video will be on the blog... but this child was more than entertaining on our road trips.  Leading me to believe, once again, that 3rd children are a different breed... they are sent here to make us laugh.
Tracking our time by iPhone!!! Loved it!!
Our campsite... amazing...
Selfie in San Francisco!!! WE ARE ON VACATION!!!!!

Thursday, July 17, 2014


“Beginnings are usually scary, and endings are usually sad, but it is everything in between that makes it all worth living.” Bob Marley

I hate to travel… I hate everything about it… I hate planning, packing, figuring out how much money I need (probably a part of planning) getting my airline tickets, getting to the airport…  The reality is- I am not safe, nor happy until I am at my airline gate. (And generally it helps if I have a cocktail in my hand)
Now getting from my house to the airline gate is the tricky and stressful part… first of all, there is something genetically abnormal with me in regards to preparing for a trip. As soon as I start to plan packing my suitcase, my mind and body decide that I need to super clean my house, starting with the garage.  It is as if the warning from my mom about making sure I had clean underwear on everyday, just in case I was in an accident, has been taken to a whole new screwed up level…So, yeah, there is that craziness to combat…
And then, just the packing…what do I take?  What do I need? How much does my suit case weigh? In my mind, there is no reason to put myself through that stress until the very last minute… so, yes, I pack starting generally around 11 p.m. the night before I am leaving for a trip… unless we are driving.  If we are making a trip by car, my packing starts much closer to 2 hours before the designated time of departure. And no, I have never missed a plane… nor have I made anyone wait on me to pack my suitcase before we could load the car for a road trip. Somehow it all works out. How? It’s a mystery!!
As I was packing on Monday night, my sweet husband was trying to keep the panic to a low simmer by watching all of our Monday night shows… which includes “24”. That show stresses me out on a normal day…I blame that show for the fact that I put 3 tank tops in the dryer with the full intention of packing them in my suitcase, only to realize sometime during the trip that my tank top supply was extremely low, because three of them had been left in the dryer. In my house. In Texas.
I received an e-mail with my shuttle confirmation and I knew that we would have to go by the shop on our way to the airport so that I could print that and have it with me when I landed at LAX in order to get a ride to my brother and sister-in-law’s house. I went over the details of how to find the shuttle with Cody so many times that I am pretty sure Cody was scared to even let me travel alone. It was obvious my mental capacity to retain information had some sort of a glitch in it.
Finally after the 50th question, and the deep breathing exercises I was practicing, Cody said, “Panic setting in?” I just nodded my head.  I was about to leave him for 13 days. I was certain my bag weighed well over the 50 lb. limit. I was leaving my grandkids for 13 days. What if Cody had a heart attack? What if I could not find my shuttle? What if they took me to the wrong house and my cell phone was dead and I could not figure out how to find Michelle and Brandon? What if something happened to my mother-in-law? What if Brandon and Michelle’s friends did not like me very much, after all I was about to be spending 10 days with them!!  YES!! IWASINFULLPANICMODE!!!
Before I knew it, we were at the American Airlines entrance!  I kissed a sleeping Hudson goodbye. (Yeah- that’s right- one more thing to worry about…Hudson was spending the day and night with Cody alone part of the “keep Hudson while his parents are in Mexico” schedule)My husband unloaded my 75 lb. suitcase, and I hitched up my back pack.  I kissed and hugged him bye, knowing I would miss him every step of the way. I took a deep breath and walked the long walk into the airport.
Retrieving the boarding pass was a breeze.  Next step finding out how much my overweight luggage was actually going to cost. After I heaved it onto the scales, I held my breath as the numbers jumbled around in all sorts of order,( much like they do on “Biggest Loser” something that always bugs me on that show because you know it is just for effect) and yet  they stopped, miraculously on the number 50!! “Fifty pounds! No more no less!” the luggage mad said to me and I wanted to jump up and down!  I made it through security and found my gate in no time!  I soon had a Bloody Mary, a good book on my Kindle and I was waiting patiently for my plane!
Before boarding the plane, I bought my brother a Bar-b-Que sandwich from Salt Lick, and I tried to figure out how to keep it together without losing control of my back pack during the 3 hour flight.
Getting to Brandon and Michelle’s house went off without a hitch!  My luggage arrived at the same time as I did.  I found my shuttle and received the confirmation text message.  Only problem I had was the intense hunger and only one sandwich that I had bought for my brother. The sandwich that I began to eat while standing in the heat waiting for my shuttle… Oh- and the fear of my phone going dead became a reality- however, the shuttle driver overheard me tell my sister-in-law that my phone was going to die, and he gladly offered to charge it for me while we were driving to Pasedena!
Key was in the mail box as promised, and soon I was on the back porch, fishing an ice cold Modello out of the cooler, sitting by the pool waiting for my niece and nephew to come spend what was left of the afternoon with me…I had arrived and I was in one of my favorite place in the world- my brother and sister-in-law’s back yard.  As I sipped my cold beer and looked at the beautiful palm trees and the mountains around me, I felt all of the tension I had built up start to drain…I was on vacation.  

“Beginnings are usually scary
 Cody and Hudson driving me to the airport!
 Hard to say goodbye to this sleeping boy...

 Safe at my gate...enjoying a relaxing cocktail!!

 Brandon and Michelle's backyard!!

Backyard pool time with the older two... Let vacation begin!!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Running Away...

I, for all intents and purposes, ran away…for thirteen blissful days I was absent from my real life and immersed in a dream vacation…a dream vacation that started at a house with a pool and hot tub (and a cooler with iced down beer)… a dinner delivery and an early morning wake- up call that enabled me to get in my ride at dawn and watch the sun rise in beautiful California as I began to make the coastal journey from Pasadena to San Francisco… a dream vacation which has taken me from my real life in Temple, TX to California where I spent time in Pasadena, San Francisco, Humboldt Red Woods, Yosemite National Park and once again returned to the private house in Pasadena with a pool, hot tub, fire pit…and the cooler of beer…
I shared this adventure (or in all reality they shared their adventure with me seeing as how I was tagging along on their vacation)with a  4 year old, a 5 year old, two 8 year olds (one of which turned 8 on the trip), a 10 year old and 4 other adults. But I was not responsible for any of them, and each and every one of them showed me so much love, grace and hospitality that I was saddened to say goodbye at the end, and I miss them terribly, still today.
The trip, which was planned by my incredible sister-in-law, Michelle and her friends, Windy and Erin, was an invitation that I received on Sunday, May 4, via text message, while I was in church… it said, “Wanna take a trip with me and kids? Coastal red woods and maybe Yosemite? XOXO Leave on June 19 from our house and get back 27 or 28? Would LOVE for u to come with. And you could stay thru Brandon’s bday and u could hang with us on the 4th of July??? Tempted yet?” When I read it, I started crying…Tempted? Darn right I was tempted!!  In fact, I had been dreaming about running away for several weeks…but knew that I really had no place to go.
Then I received this amazing invitation… I was so tempted it scared me.  But I knew that there was really no way I could go. Even when I told my best friend, Karen,  about the invitation and she said, “You should go!”  It would never happen… Even when Cody asked me if I had looked into the cost of plane tickets… there was no hope that I would actually be able to make the trip…
But, even though I held very little hope- I looked into the cost of plane tickets. I looked up information on the Humboldt Redwoods.  I looked at the dates on my calendar.  I day dreamed about it…pictured myself making it and then gave myself a mental scolding for being so selfish. 
A trip by myself to California?  I would miss my husband…I hate to go anywhere without him! Even though I smart off about running away all of the time, I really want him to run with me. What if he had another heart attack?!  I can’t go that far for that long… why was I even dreaming about it??? What about Jean? (My mother-in-law) Her health is precarious… How selfish was I to think about going on a vacation, out of state, for several days… precious vacation days that I should be using to make the most of the time I have left with my incredible mother-in-law.  How could I even consider leaving the state and my husband…what if something happened to my mother-in-law? S.E.L.F.I.S.H. thinking.  I can not even think about leaving.
But then, Mother’s Day rolled around.  Cody and I spent the weekend in Lubbock celebrating the great mother that Jean Crittenden is… we had Mother’s Day lunch with most of Cody’s family…and then we had to load up and make the trip back home.
Cody always does Mother’s Day for me in an amazing way. He cooks an awesome meal, and works with the kids to make sure that I feel special.  This year was no different. We had a great lunch on Mother’s Day in Lubbock with Cody’s awesome family- his mom and dad, his sisters, brother-in-laws and nieces and nephew.  He hid a card in my Kindle which I found on the way home and we ate dinner at the Lone Star Steak House in Temple with David. I had received “Happy Mother’s Day” messages from all of my children.  And I had been able to spend the day with my mother-in-law, who deserves a celebration everyday… AND I was able to talk to my own mother (also deserving of a daily celebration!) who was spending her special day in California with my brother, sister-in-law and nieces and nephew.   My Mother’s Day was complete… except for the fact that apparently, it wasn’t.

Lynnsay and Katherine kept wanting to know when we were going to celebrate Mother’s Day as a family…and so we came up with a plan to celebrate it on Tuesday at a restaurant in Temple (funny story- my first choice turned out to be a bar instead of a restaurant now… so we had to make a second choice- Old Jody’s for beer and fried food!!!) At the end of our dinner, I was presented with a gift bag… it contained two mini bottles of wine and a homemade boarding pass for a flight from Austin to LAX… my family bought me tickets for a trip that I could not imagine taking…for Mother’s Day my family was giving me permission to run away… and I did.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Why All Mommy’s of toddlers and pre-schoolers deserve a cleaning lady (Even if they stay at home)

It has been since March 1st that I have had a “regular weekend”… in all reality, it could have been longer than that; I can’t really remember all the details of February, because, yes, March and April have been that crazy. But I am positive that I have not had a Saturday to myself in the last two months.
Now- I don’t want to sound selfish…I love doing everything that I do for everyone in my life…but I do love a Saturday that is dedicated to cleaning house, laundry and prepping for the next week…time in the yard working…bathing my dogs…changing my sheets…spending time on my porch and at the end of the day having a perfectly cleaned house, laundry done, folded and put away, dinner prepared and not feeling like I am “behind” on anything  in the homemaking business.  I may be behind in my work at the shop; I may be behind in my Bible reading; I may be behind in almost every other aspect of my life, but for that one little moment- my housework is up to date and in order. So, what I am saying to you is that for nearly two months, my life has not been “in order”; it has not been up to date. It has not been in control. (Mine that is)  I feel like I have been treading water and my head is barely above the water enough to breath. (Which is exactly where it would be if I were indeed treading water…if you don’t believe me, you can ask my trainer, Hannah, who told me and my daughter that we were the worst swimmers she had ever seen…)
A wonderful day that I have had all along is “Hump Day with Hudson and Aubrey”. (For those of you that don’t know, that is my 23 month old grandson and my 3 year old granddaughter.)So, on Wednesday I have a “day off,” or another way to say it is, “I get to stay home.” At this point all stay at home moms should be offended…and speaking as a former stay at home mom, this attitude totally infuriates me. However, that being said, I do feel the pressure that I should “get something done” on the Wednesdays when I “stay home to keep my grandkids”.  But, I try to keep my focus on my grands and off of my house. However, today, was a little different…I had a household goal and planned for myself: clean my nasty bathrooms!  I also had a household goal planned for the grands:  clean the “baby room” before nap.  Thank God my world is not ruled by timeline goals…
My bathrooms (and I only have two) have been in desperate need of attention. I have only “spot cleaned” (I hope you get my drift…all sorts of spots) for the last 8 weeks.  Today, I was sure that while the kids were playing I could really clean my bathrooms…deep clean… get all of the scum off the tubs, get the toothpaste spit out of the sink, wipe down the toilets with bleach and shine them with rubbing alcohol, shine the counters and the mirrors and finish with a shine of the tile and the tub… This is a process that normally takes me 20 minutes for each bathroom, MAX… Today, it took over 2 hours to clean two bathrooms. TWO HOURS!!! And two hundred melt downs… and I am not going to lie… 50 of them were mine.   I worked hard to keep my grandmother attitude in sync with my mother mouth…however that did not work…on so many levels.
“Sweetie, don’t come in here or touch that because it has bleach on it, and it can hurt you and ruin your clothes…why don’t you go play or watch “Mickey Mouse Club”?
Those are just a couple of examples…
The interruptions in cleaning…oh the interruptions… dealing with jumping on the bed.  Tug of war over a toy. Rescuing the dogs from a toddler herding attack. (I have to admit that I toyed with the idea of letting them bully the poor dogs because they were laughing and there was no fighting…or tattling. They were united in this effort.)  Realizing that my house is not “baby proof” and I did not realize that the ______ (fill in the blank, because the list is endless) was within reach. (And my grands have a good reach)
And then there is the tattling…oh the tattling… OY VEY!!!! As a former mom myself, I immediately recognize the sing song, whining tone of a sentence being started with my name, such as, “MaAarrrZZZZzz”, as the beginning of a “report.”  It is a report  on another child’s behavior which in no way has to do with blood, broken bones, life threatening actions, or even the possibility that someone has ran away… It is generally to report over the unfairness in the world.  Crayons being hoarded.  Dolls taken away.  Turn taking not going as planned…that sort of report. After halting the 250th of such reports, I inevitably start to scream, “If either one of you tattle one more time, I am going to poke my eye out!!  Seriously, I am going to be forced to poke my eye out… with my finger…” Words that generally cause my grandchildren to look at me as if I have lost it, and then look at each other and start laughing.  I think they are mentally high fiving each other because they realize they have pushed me over the edge.
I also spent a good deal of time answering the same question over and over again… “MarZ, when can we go outside and play with the chalk?” My answer? “As soon as I get these two bathrooms clean.”
After two hours and a lot of counting to 10 in my head and constantly reminding myself that they are just babies… I finished my bathroom cleaning- and we headed to the patio for art and entertainment.  We drew flowers and houses and wrote “I love you’s”. We drew on the dogs, and the house and pots…we had a melt down over sharing the chalk… and both grands were filthy by the time we went back inside…so guess what?  The plan to clean up the kid room before nap time was replaced with bath time… after which, my spotless tub was sporting a chalky soap ring and filled once more with bath toys that had to dry out before being returned to the toy bag.   And I was reminded, once again, that precious time with these precious babies is worth more than any clean surface in my house. 
I have a poem that is hanging in one of my bathrooms.  It says:
Cleaning and scrubbing
Can wait till tomorrow
For babies grow up,
Weve learned to our sorrow.
So quiet down cobwebs
Dust go to sleep.
I am rocking my baby,
And babies dont keep.
Maybe grandmothers need a house keeper sometimes too!
Additional Note from MarZ:  I wrote this blog over a month ago, and have just not taken the time to post it.  Today I was blessed with the opportunity to keep not only my grandson, Hudson- but also two of his cousins (and his DeeDee’s grands)…They had a family funeral, and I had volunteered to keep the little ones during the service.  So from 10:30 to 1 p.m. I had three under three… a 6 month old, a 31 month old and a 25 month old. As I enjoyed them, I realized that having three babies in diapers is exhausting… and only the smallest and then the “squeaky wheel” (aka: poopie diaper) is the one that gets the attention! While my time with these precious babies was spent with so much laughter and love… it was also exhausting.  “Floor time” for the 6 month old quickly changed from precious memories of Hudson loving on “baby” and cooing sweet words to her (causing this MarZ to drift into dream land of how great of a big brother he is going to be) to a war zone when a recovered “swimmer” pull up lead to so much excitement that he forgot the baby was on the floor and almost crushed her (causing this MarZ to remember how tough 2nd babies need to be).  Going to the bathroom waited until I almost peed my pants because I was worried about what to do with the baby while I tinkled… I opted for floor time (which she is not a fan of) on the bath rug, with the door locked. Safe zone…(causing this MarZ to think about how difficult it is for a mommy to potty train one kiddo while you have a small one that you have to figure out what to do with every time you hear the words, “Mommy! I have to go potty!”) And forget about referring the fights of the older two… who really wants to put the baby down to make sure that everything is fair during toy time…Until punches are thrown… and then you risk the total meltdown of the baby in order to kiss the wounded and deal with bully. My mom always said, “I have had some stressful jobs in my life, and serving as County Judge has definitely been at the top of the list.  However, being a Judge is nothing in comparison to raising children.”  Amen, Mother. Amen.
I love all of the young moms in my life who are doing amazing jobs with their children.  I am in awe of each of you… and I am honored to be a part of your children’s lives.  I see so many of my own parenting flaws by watching all of your parenting successes… you guys are an inspiration to me…(I wonder if I could have a “do over”) 

You each deserve a house cleaner!!!