Thursday, December 23, 2010

A Day with My Boy

Curtis told me that one of his favorite childhood memories was when his mom would take him and his sister to pick out a Christmas present for their dad. They would go in the tools section and pick out whatever struck their fancy. Steve probably already had or didn't need whatever they picked out, but Curt said his dad absolutely loved it and treasured his gifts. Mom used to take Melissa and I to Academy to shop for our dad, where I would pick out fishing lures from the worm bar. (You haven't lived until you've squished oily rubber worms in your hands in the worm bar.) They came in all sorts of crazy color schemes and I'm sure I picked out the wildest looking ones. I don't think Dad ever used those lures, but hopefully his daughter's interest in what he loved meant something to him.

When Curt mentioned that memory to me, I knew I needed to do the same with Jackson. I hate that I didn't think of it first, but I'm blaming the fact that we went out of town for a week right before Christmas. We won't ever do that again.

I ended up getting to spend a really great afternoon alone with Jackson. First we drove to the library to return our library books. One was a Dick and Jane reader that I will remember forever as the first book he ever read to me. It was one of the most exciting moments of my life. I remember reading the same book with my mom and I hope Jackson will remember it, too.

I asked him where he wanted to go to shop for his daddy and he said Walmart.
Oh sweet Lord, give me strength. I accepted my lot and we drove to the behemoth of holiday crowds and grinches. My consolation was the fact that now we would only need to go to one store instead of the three I had planned on.

Jackson climbed into the basket, which embarrassed me a little but then it was so practical I decided not to care. We gathered all the groceries we needed for our Christmas Eve dinner with our dear friends. I also decided at the last minute that I would make my traditional butterscotch haystacks, even though I'd sworn I wouldn't do that to my body. Since I was making those naughty little treats, why not add cake balls, oreo balls, and chex mix into the...mix? Jackson was surrounded by food on every side but he insisted on staying in the basket.

At last it was time to pick out Daddy's present! He knew exactly what he wanted to get from the moment I told him what we were doing. We managed to find something - even down to the color he specified - that would be perfect. Then he picked out a present for his sister and that was very sweet. He chose was the same doll I had taken to our precious Stephanie in Guatemala, only with light skin and blond hair. It was a little more than I wanted to spend today but I didn't want to crush his generosity.

Normally, checking out at Walmart is a huge pain, but today we were behind a woman who was buying a ton of blankets, soap, toothbrushes and toothpaste. I asked her if she was taking it to a shelter and she said yes. Well look at that. Walmart was filled with angels, not grinches. Shame on me for my attitude. Jackson asked what she was doing and we had a great teachable moment.

I realize none of this story is very interesting, but it was so wonderful to spend that time alone with my son. Maybe this will add some flavor to my boring story.

We lacked one thing and had to go to HEB to get it. There were only like 5 spots open in the parking lot and I was saying under my breath, "Stupid, stupid HEB." Jackson broke out in a loud cackle, "Mommy, you said stupid! Ha ha! I heard you saying stupid!" Oh by the way, this morning he told me he tooted and I said, "Bud, I don't need to know that." Then he said, "Mommy, I want you to know about everything that comes out of my body." Wow.

While Jackson and I were at HEB dealing with more crowds and grinchiness than ever, Curtis was having a father-daughter date with Annabeth at La Madeleine. How precious is that? Now, Annabeth is too young to request a restaurant, so if any of you are friends with my husband and want to give him a hard time about his love for French food, feel free.

Tonight we went to my parents' house and had supper. Mom made an amazing beef stew with cornbread. Colin had just gotten a new guitar and he played for us. He's so good! He won Annabeth over with that. On the way home we stopped by a house in our neighborhood that does a light show choreographed to music. The kids loved it.

Right now Santa is in the garage putting together a little pink kitchen and a "race track that crashes cars." It was the one thing Jackson said he wanted over and over again. I'm hoping Annabeth likes her kitchen more than I like mine. Maybe if I painted it pink...

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

10 People Who Inspired Me in 2010

I could make this list 100 people long and still feel like I didn't do it justice. But here are 10 people who inspired me this year.

1) Curtis Jones - My best friend, lover, and partner in everything. Curtis inspires me to love and live for Jesus. His faith has exploded like an atom bomb this year and it has been so exciting to watch.

2) David Platt - He inspired me through Radical. He is speaking at Passion 2011 and I can't wait to hear him preach.

3) Heather Hendrick - She introduced me to Radical. Reading her blog will make you pray and want to be involved in how God is healing Haiti.

4) Jamie Ivey - I've been reading her blog for years, which is so crazy to say. Jamie's on my list of "people to meet in 2011," which I compiled just now while I was typing. I would like some lessons in ministry from Jamie and her friends.

5) Jenn Hatmaker - Her book, Interrupted, was placed in my hands a couple of months ago. I couldn't put it down. One day soon I'll tell you how it changed my life. Thanks, Missy.

6) Blessed Mommy - We've never met, but we have a childhood best friend in common. I believe it put a smile on Molly's face when we connected. She is mommy to two exceptional, beautiful children.

7) Kristen S - I heard about Kristen for years before I actually met her from our mutual friend, Allison. We finally met when we joined the As One Bible study class at our church. Kristen is facing some tremendous difficulty with courage and grace. I love her tender heart, her laugh, and how down to earth she is. She is definitely one of my heroes.

8) Kristen@WeAreThatFamily - I met Kristen last January at this little blogger meetup here in Houston. She was getting ready to go to Kenya with Compassion and Shaun (see below) had just sent me an email about Guatemala. Fast forward eleven months. We, having gone on our respective trips, met again at the Compassion bloggers reunion in Birmingham, which I just realized I have not yet blogged about. Dern! Anyway, Kristen and her family are partnering with a Compassion LPD program grad to start a maternity home for young girls in Kenya. I have loved reading the story of how it all unfolded. We serve an amazing God.

9) Shaun Groves - I will never be able to thank him enough for inviting me to Guatemala. On our last night there, Shaun encouraged us to avoid living "in the middle." Dang you for saying that, Shaun Groves! I'm still figuring that out, but the good news is that I'm not who I was. Shaun is getting ready to make a new album, which will increase his platform with Compassion. I'm so excited for him. I loved the post he wrote about it today.

10) Patricia Jones - Patricia and her husband work for Compassion. She was also my roommate in Guatemala. If I could pick one mother of older kids to shadow for a year, it would be her. I love her family's sense of purpose and I am eating up every word she says on her blog. If you're a mother, do yourself a big favor and subscribe to her blog.

Obviously, Compassion was a big part of my year! I'd say they pretty much made my year. You can make someone's year too by partnering with Compassion. You could sponsor a child from Guatemala. You could do some last minute gift buying through their Gifts of Compassion online catalog. Or you could get involved in the Child Survival Program for pregnant mothers and infants. There's no end to the blessing you could be to a child living in poverty.

Who inspired you in 2010?

Monday, December 20, 2010

Bye, Belle

We spent our last day at Disney World in Epcot. If you want to see beautiful pictures of flowers and princess topiaries, go to my old posts because this time all the flowers were covered with blankets.

The first thing we did was ride Soarin'. Then we went to the character spot to take pictures with Mickey and Minnie and company. Jackson acted like he couldn't care less about this but look at this picture! He gave every last one a big hug and nearly knocked Goofy down.

We had a hard time booking any character meals that worked with our schedule, so we ended up doing the princess storybook breakfast. I thought I could teach Annabeth who all the princesses were in time, but I was lacking in zeal.

I put Annabeth in her Alice in Wonderland costume from Halloween. Here she is waiting patiently with Nana to see Belle.

The cast members who play the princesses are amazing at their jobs. Belle greeted Annabeth by name and the only way she could have known it was by listening to us talk to her while in line. I couldn't tell what Annabeth was thinking, but when we walked away she said in a sweet baby girl voice, "Bye, Belle." Melt my heart. She also said, "Princess."

Then Annabeth got her food.

And we realized that our princess was still in progress.

What a dainty flower.

Cinderella was the first to stop by our table. Like a wise woman, she kept her distance from grubby little Alice.

Snow White has the best dress, doesn't she?

Ariel got a smile out of AB.

It was nice of my boys to put up with all the princess business.

Next we did the Finding Nemo ride and Turtle Talk with Crush. Jackson was crushed when he wasn't called on to ask a question. I was secretly relieved. When we asked him what question he wanted to ask, he said he wanted to tell Crush about his new shoes. Awesome. We watched the dolphins in the aquariums for a while and then we headed to the Test Track. We gave this one two thumbs up.

Annabeth fell asleep in the stroller.

Our final mission was to find Alice. We heard she was in England, so we stalked it until she showed up. Annabeth had Babies with her when she approached Alice, and to my horror, Alice took the gunky thing and laid it on her lap, calling it "quite curious." What a servant. I didn't even want to touch it by then.

Alice told Annabeth she must have gotten some jam on her nose.

On the way out we were feeling very snacky, so we stopped by the caramel shop in Germany. It was OUT OF CONTROL. It smelled so good in there. Cozy bought some hot caramel popcorn that had just come out of the skillet. We also got a gingerbread man and some apple cider in America. To top it all off, homegirl was craving some Mexican food like any good Texan who's been out of her homeland more than 24 hours. Even though my family had a horrible meal in Mexico when I was in 8th grade, I was willing to risk it! We got a huge plate of nachos and churros. Delish! We left happy and with stomach aches.

On the way back to our hotel room, Jackson let out a huge burp. There was a lifeguard nearby and he was laughing so hard and congratulating Jackson on his manly achievement. He said, "God bless you, Buddy." Then I asked if I could take his picture because it was so weird seeing lifeguards in snowsuits. The pools were heated but not enough for the Arctic blast of 2010. We did see some crazy people swimming though.

Cozy, Jackson and Curtis went back to Magic Kingdom that night but Annabeth and I were too tired to leave the room. This is when she finally decided to put on her hat and gloves. I gasped when I saw her face because I felt like I was looking at myself as a child.

We stayed in the 1950's section at the Pop Century. Lady and the Tramp were always there to greet us. I couldn't stop singing "We are Siamese if you please."

We had a late breakfast before leaving on Thursday morning and it was so crowded, there weren't even enough tables to eat inside. That's when I had to admit that Curt's Earliness Project was legit.

Also, I miss my special mug and instant hot chocolate.

If you stay at a hotel on the Disney property, there are lots of perks. One of the best things is the transportation. This is the Disney's Magical Express bus that takes you to and from the airport. We even got to check our bags and get our boarding passes before leaving the hotel.

Abe was in quite a mood. I guess she didn't want to leave. When Curtis pointed out that we had literally moved everything out of reach from her at lunch, we died laughing. This picture is a treasure.

If you're thinking of visiting Disney World soon, the number one thing I'd tell you is to pay $22 for a membership at It's worth every penny and you would spend more buying the Disney guide books at Barnes and Noble. He helps you plan (strategize, really) your itinerary based on the dates you'll be going and how historically crowded it is at that time. And he gives tips on where to stay, what to eat, what to do and when, etc. If you use his strategies, you won't wait longer than 15 or 20 minutes at any ride. Just do it!

Disney Overload

On Monday morning we got up at the crack of dawn to get to Hollywood Studios before it opened. This was our painful but effective goal every day. It was absolutely f-r-e-e-z-i-n-g, y'all. Orlando was having its coldest spell since 1967 or something like that. My skin still hasn't recovered. Cozy bought a hat and mittens for Annabeth and she refused to wear them until she and I were alone in the hotel room on the last night. Awesome.

Here we are back at the stroller station.

We made a mad dash along with 1,000 other people to the Toy Story ride, which we'd missed last time. When you snake through the line it looks like you're in a toy box. My pictures didn't turn out but it was fun, fun, fun.

After that we saw The Little Mermaid show. Curtis ran to get us fast passes for The Tower of Terror (Jackson was begging to do it). Meanwhile, we managed to find Mickey. Annabeth wasn't too sure about him but she eventually started to like him, calling him "Mouse."

We stood in line for the Playhouse Disney thing but it became clear that Jackson didn't give a rip about seeing another show and Annabeth was in rare form, so we ditched the line and found something else to do. We were walking toward the Honey I Shrunk the Kids playground when we saw the Backlot Tour. From the picture on the sign, Jackson thought this was a runaway bus ride and desperately wanted to do it. So we did.

Raise your hand if you know what this is. You know you loved it.

This place makes me so happy. Jackson was intimidated by it last time, but he really got into it this year.

It was time to use the fast passes, so Cozy and Jackson rode Tower of Terror together. He was very proud of himself for riding it. Curtis and I took turns doing the single rider line at the Aerosmith roller coaster. I think that one's my favorite. Then we peaced out and rested at the hotel.

On Monday evening we braved the freezing temperatures and went to Epcot to see the Candlelight Processional narrated by Stephen Curtis Chapman. Whoopi Goldberg was the narrator the night before. I'm sure her voice sounded great, but she doesn't strike me as a fan of Jesus. I don't know. Maybe she is.

Annabeth didn't want to sit in the stroller and was having a huge tantrum. We strapped her in, but a few minutes later she flung herself out of the stroller and landed on her face. The seatbelt was still buckled. I felt like the world's worst mom. We went to the first aid station (which was like a doctor's office) and got some Neosporin for it. Poor thing.

Annabeth made it through most of the Christmas program with the help of dum dums, but she started talking loudly and whining and I had to take her out at the end. She was exhausted from our crazy schedule. But it was so neat to be there with SCC! After reading the Scriptures, he shared about the hope and peace that Jesus offers. We actually got to visit with him for a few minutes afterward and that was so neat! He was gracious and fun and exactly like I imagined he would be. Curt had on his Duke sweatshirt and Stephen told us that Mary Beth is also a huge Duke fan. Maybe we'll see her at the Final Four in Houston this year!

Later we had dinner in China, which was pretty good. Then we hauled buns out of the park because it was like Antarctica.

On Tuesday morning we went to Animal Kingdom. While Curt got us fast passes for the safari ride, Cozy and I took the kids to Dinoland. We eventually had a re-do of my worst parenting moment from 2009. That was when we took Jackson on "Dinosaur" and it was the scariest thing ever. But my big, brave, almost five-year-old was begging to do it again. And again. So we did. He loved being scared silly but my hands were shaking for at least five minutes afterward.

Jackson was technically too tall to sit in the stroller, but I can't imagine not being able to put him in there. It had been so long since he'd been in a stroller that he loved every minute of it.

There was a hot tea vendor and this was my first cup in days.

On safari.

We took a train to a building where we could escape the cold and see some animal exhibits. Rafiki was there. AB was holding on for dear life.

There was a petting zoo outside.

This is Abe's precursor to sleep. Notice we had to bring her blanket, AKA "Babies," with us. I fought hard against this because (A) I didn't want to lose it (B) I didn't want her to have to sleep with a filthy, germy blanket at night (C) I thought it would fall under the stroller and get ripped. Curtis and Cozy overruled me and Babies was a constant presence in our Disney adventures. Thank You Jesus, it is still in one piece and has now been disinfected.

Pocahontas was so pretty.

Jackson didn't really get into the characters this time. All he cared about were the roller coasters. I couldn't believe it. But he indulged me a few times after I bribed him.

I'd dressed Annabeth in her zebra sweater for Animal Kingdom but it was so cold that it didn't matter.

I have to get up in 5.5 hours, so I'm going to have to finish this in another post. Our LPM Christmas party is in the morning. Last year my mom was still very weak from her surgery and we didn't get to do it the normal way. So I think tomorrow we will really appreciate what we get to do and have a blast. I obviously need a break from my camera, but hopefully Melissa will bring hers. Hasta luego.