Tag Archives: childhood

Cousins weekend…

Ever since my family moved home to Michigan, I started a new tradition where I picked one weekend, over the summer, and invited all of my nieces and nephews to my house for a sleepover.

Now.. one of my nephews was too old to enjoy this.. and.. some were too young..

..but every year I get a few to come..

Ha! By a “few”.. I mean 10 or more..

This year.. I had 18 kiddos at my house..

Age range .. 4 years to 20!

Doors were left open… noses were skinned… heads were bonked… snow cones were spilled.. a bean bag lost its beans… shaving cream in the eyes… stubbed toes… there were hurt feelings.. disappointment over the rain.. and cancelled bonfires..

…but there was also.. laughter .. games… late night talks.. talking in sleep… snow cones.. sundaes on Sunday… frog hunts.. snuggles… hugs… movie time… swimming… a small obsession with the kitten.. good food… some amazing fairy/gnome/snake houses craft time.. and a lot of new memories made…

Some people ask how me how I can do it?

Well?

I don’t do it by myself. My husband stayed this year for some of it. A couple of my Sisters-in-law stayed and pitched in. This helps with the mixed aged groups. And everyone sends food.

But over all?

I go into this weekend EXPECTING them to act like kids.. and then? I expect chaos. I plan certain activities to give them focus. I provide spaces for them interact.. I give them my expectations.. but give them the freedom to make choices.

And I don’t know? It just falls into place..

But what I do know?

I know that these kids all look forward to it every year… counting down the weeks until it happens.. talking about “next year”…

And every year.. I fall in love with these blessings who create huge messes a little bit more.. until my heart is near to bursting…

So this morning as I clean up beanbag “beans” in my living room.. mop my kitchen floor.. kill the flies buzzing my head… clean up the craft supplies in the garage.. and put away the bounce house..?

I find myself planning for next year…

..the game of life..

.. this Christmas Eve I had the pleasure of playing the game of Life with my nieces and nephews…

..now…?

Most of these nieces and nephews were well below the suggested age bracket of “8 and up” that was printed on the box…

But they all wanted to play… so we opened the box… and put the board together.

… when I pointed out the starting place on the board.. one of my nephews looked at it with doubt.. and said that it looked more like the end of the game…

HA ha…

I think more than one person would say that starting a career or starting college would be the end of their life.. or at least the end of all things “fun”…

.. as I tried to get them all focused on setting up the game to play… they were FAR more interested in filling their cars full of kids … or visiting their uncle Tim in Jail.. or picking out their houses.. and definitely running over their little people…

.. finally I gave up trying to show them the rules and just watched them play.. I watched them drive their cars backwards on the roads.. ha .. that is IF they stayed on the roads at all..

As I watched them play?

I couldn’t help but think how they represented the world around us.

Not everyone wants to follow the rules of Life..

.. and some people don’t get the option of starting at the beginning.. OR following the road exactly..

Some of us start OUT doing things according to the rules.. traveling the roads in the directions we are supposed to.. ONLY to find a detour (or two) that takes us off the main stream road..

…special needs

…widowed

… job changes

… house fire

The point is?

The point is.. that there is no “perfect” road through life. No rules that apply to every person..

Who was I to tell them that my game “rules” were more fun than the “rules” they were playing by… ??

…so I laughed.. and pointed out to my nephew that it didn’t matter if he was driving backwards on the road.. but that Jesus wouldn’t want him to run over his kids…

… He looked down at the game pieces and scowled..

“Those aren’t my kids.. that’s my wife.”

I silently vowed to never loan him my keys as I helped his poor wife back in his car.

A rainbow…

 Growing up, I had a brother who lived next door. He wasn’t actually related to me.. but my heart adopted him as a brother just the same.

With 5 brothers of my own.. and a sister…? Some would ask why I would want to adopt another one. Others explain to me that you can’t just adopt new siblings.. like puppies…

.. but adopt him I did … Him and his older sister were almost as much a part of our family .. as the siblings who lived with me. We laughed together.. we argued… we planned elaborate schemes… we succeeded .. and sometimes we failed. And at times? At times we all got in trouble together.

This brother next door? Terry… He was best friends with my older brother Paul. Where ever Paul and Terry went? Well .. I was never far behind. Me and my moppy head of curls.. often in a dress… would trail behind the boys waiting for whatever mischief they could find. I never had to wait long..

Surprisingly? They never seemed to tire of waiting for me to catch up. They never rolled their eyes at having to nail steps into a tree for me to get into the tree house. They never forgot to warn me to stand clear of danger.. or swarming bee hives.

These 2 boys were my first friends.

When my brother Paul enlisted in the Navy.. it left me and Terry to finish out our Senior year alone. I sure did miss my brother that year.. but it’s the year I got to know Terry the best.

And MAN did we argue that year.. We debated whether Mail Order brides would have worked.. OK.. I debated.. Terry flat refused to believe that anything less than true love in a marriage would succeed… We argued about my boyfriends.. and his girlfriends.. We argued about the best season to visit the beach.. and once we even argued about arguing…

Occasionally I would frustrate him so bad?? He would clamp his mouth shut and walk out the door…

..but he would still pick me up for school the next day… without fail.

 But all the while we were arguing.. I got to know Terry really well.  I knew he wanted to SAVE the world… so he planned on enlisting in the Navy with my brother. I learned more about his “actual” siblings… I saw that he would give away his last dollar.. and even his shirt if he needed to. He loved country music… He loved “hero” movies.. especially Steven Seagal ones. He loved his truck… His family was so very important to him…

… and he wanted to find true love…

Well after graduation .. we parted ways. He enlisted in the Navy and I didn’t hear much from him for years. He was off keeping the world safe… having adventures…

10 years later.. he started calling me when he was home. Especially when he was upset. He would tell me how proud he was of his kids.. and how he still wanted a love that would make him happy.

Eventually he found that love…

He had a couple years with her… Those years made him so happy… His smile practically jumped out of the photos I would see. And he adopted more kids .. (We are very alike in that way..)

Those years made me so happy for him…

I never actually saw Terry again after graduation. I heard his voice so many times… but I never got to see his face in person.. It just never worked out..

… and I will have to wait a while longer it seems…

You see? Terry was in a car accident last week… and God called him home.

Today I sat in church and listened to my brother’s voice shake as he stood in front of everyone… Talking about his friend… sharing about how they had finally reconnected after all those years of going in different directions because of the Navy. I admired how strong Paul was to stand up and share his story.

I am not that brave.. I am not a great speaker.. I have to let my words flow through my fingers…

.. but I loved my adopted brother just the same…

I know that Everything will be Beautiful in its time… and in Time we will see why Terry was taken from this Earth so early… and it will be Beautiful..

…but I have still shed a few (ok.. more than a few) selfish tears.. because I will miss him…

… but I am so glad Terry was put in my life… God knew I needed a good friend.. a faithful and stead fast friend for those frustrating teen years… and I will gladly shed these tears and feel this heartache in exchange for all those wonderful memories…

.. and his smile will always shine through my tears… because he hated anyone to be unhappy… Making it his goal to make people smile..

.. so I will smile for him… and I will see him again soon…

Love you Terry…

Taming the beast…

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Once upon a time… a long time ago.. when I was a little girl.. I had a cat.  Ha!!  In truth, my siblings and I had a LOT of cats.  I am not really sure where they all came from.  I can’t remember ACTUALLY picking out a single cat in my life.. They just appeared over night.. often in multiple numbers. 

To little girls?  YUP.. it was heaven.

My sister and I loved all those cats.  But the problem was.. our cats weren’t actually tame. 

They would come to us when we called them.. (because we always had food)… They would follow us… (because we never brought enough food).. But very rarely could you hold a cat for more than a few minutes. 

In fact.. you know the National Geographic Nature shows .. the ones where the tiger lazes peacefully in the sun.. looking elegant and regal… Then the camera man flashes an image of that same tiger in full snarl mode.. attacking its prey…

YUP.. you just got an image of our cats….

One summer day?  My sister and I decided WE were going to tame those cats..

Ok.. we just wanted to tame one cat.. A particularly cute gray cat that we had named.. “Cutie”… (Original right?!?)… So we put our brilliant minds together and came up with a plan….

We needed a leash…

I mean if you saw all those elegant people on Television.. They led their tame and obedient dogs around on leashes all the time… That HAD to be the key… (And besides.. can’t you imagine showing up to social event with your elegant and regal “Cutie” cat walking tamely at the end of a jewel studded leash… YUP… we were going to be the envy of ALL our friends…)

So we NEEDED that leash…

Now as you can imagine… YUP.. no jewel studded leashes were laying around.. But we were NOT to be deterred.  We would simply make one.  So?  We raided my Mother’s yarn stash.

Even though we were young.. my sister and I were intelligent.. So we knew that 1 strand of yarn wouldn’t be effective.. and we suspected it wouldn’t be comfortable.  So we braided 3 strands together for an elegant leash.  We knotted one end into a loop for the handle.. and the other end into a slip knot.. (For easier capturing, of course..)..

Then we were ready…

With a dish of cat food… We began to call KITTY KITTY KITTY…..

And Cutie came running…

So elegant.. so unaware of her new destiny… unsuspecting of the danger that (cleverly hidden behind our back) leash held.  Cutie fell right into our trap…

In a flash, my sister slipped the leash around Cutie’s neck.. and tightened it enough so it fit snuggly.  It was so simple… so easy.. (to steal a phrase from one of my daughter’s favorite kids’ book…)… so perfectly perfect….

And then everything went wrong…

…quickly…

When that leash tightened on Cutie’s neck.. she snarled… I stepped away (..hey.. I had seen that inner tiger in action…).. That hardly tamed cat pulled and pulled on the end of the leash.. terrified and snarling… Until we released the end of the leash..  Freed from the apparent danger, Cutie quickly scaled a 50 foot tree at the edge of the woods… Running gracefully across the first branch … Cutie leapt beautifully to the next tree.. And nearly made it…

Nearly…

You see Cutie still had that beautiful, hand braided yarn leash… trailing behind her… And as you know.. Yarn is like Velcro.. it sticks to everything… And stick it did… The loop caught on a branch.. And Cutie’s elegant escape was cut short, jerking her back…

And she was falling.. falling… until she came to the end of that 3 foot leash..

Our relief that our ingenious leash saved Cutie from a 30 foot drop?  Well that relief was short lived…  It was immediately apparent that our ingenious hand tied slip knot leash had turned into a noose.. A great noose too.. because through some bizarre twist of fate.. apparently my sister and I could make some seriously strong knots… As that cat flailed and snarled and flipped and swatted and flailed… in a constant scurry of motion.. All the time, making the most horrendous wailing noise… We began to pray the knot would fail… and then Cutie could fall to safety…

It did not…

I began to cry… and to call my Dad…

Now… My Dad?… My Dad didn’t like cats… he never has.. And he was especially not fond of the pack that adopted our household…

But with my sister and I calling for him?  He came running out of the garage ..(from whatever important job he was fixing).. Came running to see 2 emotional girls pointing up into a tree.. at a blur of motion he guessed to be a cat.. on the end of a rope..

Now just as Jonah didn’t want to go to Nineveh.. to do the job God instructed him to do.. My dad’s face was less than eager..  but still he fetched the tallest ladder he owned.  When that ladder fell 10 foot short.. My Dad went and retrieved chunks of 2×4’s .. hammer and nails.. Holding the hammer, nails, and boards.. he scaled the ladder.. and began to nail the “steps” into the trees…

All the while?.. Yup.. my sister and I implored him to hurry…

When my father nailed the last board into the tree.. he climbed those make shift steps.. stood on his tip toes.. and finally reached the cat.  Holding Cutie up with one arm.. my dad tried to unloop the yarn leash from the tree.. which sounds relatively easy..

But you see.. Cutie?  Cutie was NOT tame.. not tame at all.. and she was terrified… So while my dad was saving this cute gray cat..  standing on his tiptoes on a 12 inch board (30 feet above the ground)… risking his life for his daughters’ sake?

That cute gray cat.. was shredding my dad.. I watched in horror as my dad struggled to hold onto the flailing, snarling ball of fur .. who was scratching my dad’s neck and face.. and arm.. the same arm that was saving her life..

And then?

Then when Cutie’s neck was free.. she tore free of my dad’s safe arms and JUMPED to the ground.. landing safely on all four feet.. and sped away.. (In fact.. it was a long time before we saw Cutie again..)..

My dad? 

My dad took in a deep breath.. and slowly climbed down from his death perch.. slowly climbed down the long ladder.. and put his feet on solid ground.  I could see the angry looking scratches on his cheek.  There were trails of blood running down his neck.. But his face?  It was completely emotionless as he looked down into our faces…

Looking down into the faces of his two young daughters’ tear stained faces.. he calmly said.. “Leashes do NOT belong on kittens.”

“Ahhh.. okay dad.”

With that being said?  He folded up his ladder and went back to the garage.

Those steps that my dad had nailed into the tree?  Those steps stayed… For years, we would check to see if they were still there.  I remember pointing them out to my younger brothers and telling them the story of Cutie.  Our attempt to tame a wild cat.. I remember watching their solemn faces as they listened in horror to my dad’s narrow escape with his life.. (ok.. I liked to make it more dramatic then it was..)… Those steps were still there (old and decaying) well into my adult years..

For me they stood as a clear reminder..  

When ever a task was put before me.. whether it was by my parents or put there by God?  When I would be tempted to forget the instructions and run away (Just like Jonah ran from Nineveh?)… I can still see my Dad locking his jaw and climbing that tree to save that untamed beast for my sister and I.. Even though he didn’t like cats.. even though he was probably fixing someone’s car.. even though he doesn’t like heights.. Against all of those undesirable reasons.. my dad moved forward .. determined to do the job expected of him. 

I remember those steps my dad nailed into the tree..  when I move forward to tame my beasts…

Inquiring minds….

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Hmm.. I wonder why?!?…

“Why?”

How many times have our kids asked us this one word question?  In my case.. too many. “Why?” and “How?” were a regular part of my daughter’s vocabulary for years.  But I also knew that my daughter had came by these words honestly.. and it was only fair.  YUP.. I was (and probably always will be) a curious child.  I ALWAYS wanted to know “Why?” or “How?” or “Where?” or “Who?” or “How much?” and even “What?!?”.  I eventually learned to look these questions up myself (I LOVE google searches)… but I am sure it wasn’t before I had exasperated the patience of every adult around me.

I wanted to know EVERYTHING.  Sometimes the answers were easy.. “Read the directions.” or “The encyclopedias are in the living room.”  But just as often they weren’t easy to answer.  I remember when I was young.. we had learned about dinosaurs at school.  The teacher had said the dinosaurs had been extinct for THOUSANDS of years before humans “evolved”.  Now.. I had been raised in a Christian home and I KNEW beyond a shadow of doubt that God was the Creator of all things.. and if the Bible said God made everything in creation in 6 days then I believed It.  BUT.. how could they have proof?  Scientific proof to PROVE something that wasn’t true.  This was something that troubled me.. and it kept me up at night.  So I asked my brothers.. They told me to ask my Mom… My Mom told me to ask my Dad.. and my Dad suggested we ask our Pastor.

Our Pastor Cash.. he was a wonderful man.  He always had a smile or a laugh for us kids.  And when he gave a sermon you could tell he believed every word he said.  So.. I decided I would be brave and asked him… (AFTER ALL, I needed to know to survive).  So on Sunday morning, after the sermon (a sermon I guarantee you that I didn’t hear one word of), I patiently stood in line to greet Pastor Cash, with a carefully rehearsed question on my lips.  Now anyone who goes to church can easily envision this next scene.  Each person in their turn, shook Pastor Cash’s hand, smiled and gave a short phrase of encouragement.  These phrases were always short.  Then they passed into the lobby and into their day of Rest.  I knew my question would have to be short as well (yup.. this is what I was carefully preparing while the good Pastor was sharing the Word of God).  The poor man had no idea what was in store for him.  “Great sermon, Pastor Cash.” Hand shake. “Wonderful sermon today.”  Hand shake.  “God is so good,” Hand shake.  “Beautiful day today, Pastor.”  Hand shake.  “Beautiful sermon, thank you.” Hand shake. “Pastor, If God made all creatures PLUS Adam and Eve on the 6th day, how can scientists have scientific proof that Dinosaurs had died 1000’s of years before the first man was created?” Silence…………… and then laughter.  I know my cheeks burned.  But before I could run and hide .. Pastor Cash took my nervous little hand between his two warm ones and smiled down at me.  “The Bible says that a day and a thousand years are the same in God’s eyes.” (…or something similar.. hey.. that was 30 years ago..) I was so happy with that answer that I BARELY heard my Dad apologize to Pastor Cash for the unexpected attack of my question.  And I barely heard the hearty laughter in reply or the assurance that it made his day.  I was just so happy to have that mystery solved.

Now I have, since then, learned what the meaning of “waters from above”, the long life spans of man and beast alike, and the true impact of what the great flood meant in relation to dinosaurs.  AND I have seen where scientists have found much more scientific proof as to the time frame of dinosaurs (or great lizards).  Why? you may ask?? Because I still want to know.  I want to know the answers to so many questions that I will spend hours researching things (not just dinosaurs I assure you).. unless I set timers for myself.

Who do I blame for this horrible, consuming curiosity that both my daughter and I inherited? My mother? My father?  Nope.. I blame Eve.  It was Eve that was curious enough to try the forbidden Fruit.. The fruit from the forbidden tree of knowledge.  When I first heard this story of Eve and the serpent.. I wanted to know (shocking.. i know) why God would choose to shield us from knowledge.  To keep knowledge from us?  Now after years and years of struggling with this life of curiosity.. I realize something.  Curiosity.. man made facts… they get in the way of blind heartfelt faith.  I once asked someone a question of how they knew something.. and they answered me, “I just feel it in my heart.. that is how I know.”  I sometimes wish I had that faith.  That I could just accept the truth of God’s creation being perfect and not looking for more ways to prove it is real.  Because I believe the fact that God created all things with all my heart.  I believe that God has the perfect plan in the way He created all things.  And I believe that it needs NO proof!  I just wish I had a better connection between my heart and my mind.  .. maybe if I try an HDMI cable….?

My daughter asked a lot of questions too.. Why does that sign say that?  What does it mean? etc… Now sometimes, she would ask me hard questions.  Questions that I have no hope of ever knowing the answers to.  Questions like, “If God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are really the same person.. do they share the same body in Heaven?  Like you will only see one person?  or is it more like telepathy?  Like they can hear each other’s thoughts and finish each other’s sentences?”  You may be wondering if I TOO directed her to seek the advice of our Pastor?  The answer is a resounding NO!! My daughter has embarrassed me enough in our lifetimes.  Instead, I reply, “You know what?  Why don’t you ask God when you get to Heaven?”  Which of course she frequently wants to know, “Why wait? Why can’t I know now?”  I assure her (while trying not to laugh at her impatience), “Because God is really the only one who knows the answers to YOUR questions.”

My daughter asked me once, if I could ask God any question when I get to Heaven, what question would it be?  Immediately, my mind wants to know why God would have even given Eve the chance to eat from the Tree of Knowledge… but in truth??? In truth, I think that when I stand before My Heavenly Father.. all that curiosity will leave me and I will finally have that Blind Faith.. I think I will be filled with such peaceful blind faith that I will just stand there in awe.. (or kneel)… Either way, I don’t think I will be asking him any questions.

Contagious…

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Happiness..

When I was younger, my Dad always gave me the best things to think about. As a parent (now), I realize this was one of his greatest gift to me. One of the first memories I have of this, was him telling me, “Don’t judge someone until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.” Now I don’t remember what I said, or the act that I had “judged” to earn the advice from my Dad.. but I DO remember looking at the lady’s shoes and thinking, “OOOOOHHHH, she’s wearing spiky high heels.. no wonder she is crabby. If I had to walk a mile in THOSE shoes, I would be crabby too.” As I grew up, my Dad changed his advice to be more specific. He would say, “Judge not, lest ye be judged,” and then later in plain English, “God forgives you, in the same way you forgive others.” So, I trained myself to forgive EVERYONE.. because I am no where near being sin free.

Now it’s one thing to forgive others over the course of a day or so.. Immediate forgiveness was still sometimes elusive to me. Then one day, someone was very rude to me and my Dad. I was immediately angry, because my Dad is the nicest person you will ever meet and didn’t deserve it. My Dad? He smiled, said something extremely nice and wished them a good day. When I asked him why? He said that sometimes the meanest, grouchiest people are the ones who NEED a smile from us the most.. because it may be the only smile or nice thing they receive all day. And if we choose not to be kind? Who knows when that person will feel kindness again.

As an adult.. I realize that ALL of those advice’s are just 1 big lesson. One that took me 37 years to make “easy”.. Now, there are still days that I get frustrated or short with strangers. I spend the rest of the day praying that God would help that person forgive my negativeness, and asking God to Bless that person’s day so that my crabbiness was not contagious, passing from person to person.

But most days, when someone cuts me off on the highway? I assume they did not see me. When a Bully teases my kids? I assume they are bullied at home (and pray for them). When someone runs to get in the check out lane in front of me? I assume that they are running late. If someone puts me on hold for 15 minutes? I assume they are really busy. And when someone scowls in my direction? Yup, I picture my Dad and his gentle wisdom, put on my brightest smile and wish them a good day. Then I pray that God will find other ways to Bless that person throughout their day.

Recently, I watched my son (whom the world classifies as having special needs) smile sweetly and apologize for something he had no need to apologize for. And I see my daughter’s beautiful smile light up the world where ever she goes. And I know for sure that my Dad’s legacy, one that he learned from Our Heavenly Father, will be passed on from generation to generation.