Thursday, March 24, 2016

DO something!

This year we made a family decision for Lent.  Instead of giving up something as people normally do during this time of year, we decided we would DO something.  We were challenged at church to use this to increase God's glory though doing things for others.  We brainstormed a few ideas and put them into action.  This was going to be such a good way for me to show the boys that the world is bigger than just them and teach them a few lessons in humility and generosity.  

Teach THEM a few things. 

 Isn't that always what you think right before God slaps you smack down with what YOU needed to learn also?! 

So we spent an afternoon stocking food at the local county food bank.  We were given the instructions on what to do with the goods and how to categorize them and put to work!  I mean we WORKED!  We had one 15 minute break and then were back at it!  It was a great afternoon working with the boys and letting them make decision based on expiration dates or packaging details, using a scale and just reading labels.  AND we were helping others.
The biggest lesson for Jackson was learned when we left and one couple volunteering with us drove away in a Maserati.  He's SUPER into cars and he knew just what that car was worth.  He was impressed that they were also donating their time to help others!

“The reality is that doing good unto others actually does more good for you.”

This was a campaign the local Christian radio station put on to do random acts of kindness by leaving these sticky notes everywhere and anywhere you go!  I know they reached people because I saw people talking about seeing #lovethatsticks notes at their local stores, coffee shops and other places. Lincoln and I made some and I put them in my purse and placed them in stores for other people to see.
Our favorite spots was on the produce, melons and oranges were a hit!

It was the week after Valentines day and we ran into Kroger to grab a few things.  Before we checked out, I grabbed a huge 2 dozen rose bouquet and told the boys we were going to do something awesome!   I stood right there at checkout and split the bouquet in two.  I told the boys were were going to give the roses to ladies that might need a beautiful flower that day!  They were a little hesitant but I encouraged them and they got to it!  Most of the flowers were VERY well received.
A few people thought they wanted to be payed for them and a very few turned them flat down.  Jackson started walking up to people and quickly saying "Would you like a rose, THEY ARE FREE!" so he wouldn't have to be turned down.  When asked WHY we were doing this, we simply answered because it was a beautiful day!  And so it was!  I hope they remember doing this and the look on peoples face to receive something they didn't expect.

We joined our church a few weeks ago in serving at Breakfast in the Park with compassion united.  Around 100 homeless/low income/needy people congregate at a park in Conroe for this breakfast every Saturday.  We were there, not only to serve breakfast but also to talk and visit with the people.  As we drove up, the people were all there waiting on the food.  I was surprised at the amount of NEED so close to us.  These people needed breakfast.  They were grateful and they show up week after week.  They were talkative if you engaged them and some of them had interesting stories.  One mid 30s guy hugged me the minute we walked up.  He was charismatic and drew in a crowd.  He looked just like "hangin' with Mr. Cooper"!  He talked to us, especially to Jackson.  Jackson was surprised that he would be homeless but I told him you never know someones story.  Jamison sat with, ate with and hung out just like all the others there for breakfast.  I had instructed the boys several times that the food was NOT for us, it was for the people we came to serve.  I also wanted them to stay busy serving since that's what we were there for.  They did pretty well with some prompting.  Jackson made a few new friends.   One in particular had A LOT of bible knowledge and liked to share it "preacher style"!  Jackson listened intently even if he didn't fully understand.  He later told me Daniel reminded him of PawPaw!  
So back to Jamison, before we left we were chatting with him and he said he'd been coming to fellowship with the people for about 3 years now.  There was our answer to our question.  No, he wasn't homeless but he fully immersed himself with his friends there and I learned a big lesson!  
I had come to serve them.  And I did and that was good but in serving them, I had inadvertently placed myself, and the boys above them.  I realized that in serving these people we should be more like Jamison.  It's OK for them to wonder if we are there to serve or there to eat.  It's OK to sit down and eat and fellowship with them.  Because we are all just people.  Children of a loving God!  So just when you think you're teaching a lesson on serving others, you find out that the lesson was yours to learn all along!  

This is a ministry that we enjoyed so much that we try to go any time we can.  The boys will give me $1 or 2 that they earn and tell me they want to buy donuts for their friends.  I've made a few friends of my own and people I pray for daily!  

Another ministry that is close to my heart is street church.  We first went to street church at Christmas time and I got to see what an operation it is to bring a meal and church to the alleyway in downtown Houston every week.  We got to serve a hot meal, clean up and bring smiles to the faces of lots of people in the area.  This time we did street church, it was a VERY rainy and stormy Wednesday.  They had to move up the time to get the meal served before the storms hit.  I had both boys this time and we were under tents to prevent the food from getting too wet.
Jackson and I served the girl scout cookies down the line while Lincoln stood half in the rain handing out soggy napkins.  We closed/cleaned up and bid our street church friends farewell.  We drove home on pretty treacherous roads but Jesus got us there safely.  The next day, someone thanked us for coming to street church and I realized that I was the one that should be thanking them.  I love going to street church, I love serving God's people in that way and street church is a privilege for ME.  It is a sheer blessing to me AND my boys to feel we are doing something worthy for God's creation.  Feeding people and making friends is also a great benefit!  There it goes again, thinking I was going downtown to help others and I'm the one receiving the blessing.  Funny how it works that way!

I hope that the boys learned a lesson or two also.  I hope that this Lent instilled some values in them as it did me.   I hope they will continue the desire to serve and love others as God commanded us.  And I also hope that it will inspire you to get involved, do something that's a little uncomfortable and just really LOVE people.  You just might be surprised that in addition to blessing others, you'll be the one who walks away with a huge blessing!

Thursday, March 17, 2016

The Case of the Bahama Bucks Babysitter

I think about 6 months have passed and I'm finally able to talk about it with a little laugh.  I knew it was time when Jackson told someone, "My mom is traumatized by Bahama bucks, so we don't go there."  

Nothing against a little shaved ice.  I like it as much as the next person.  Just an eerie reminder for me.

A few months ago Jason and I went out on a date.  We used our regular 16 year old babysitter.  She's been sitting for us since before Lillian and several times after Lil was around 6 months.  She was the daughter of a co-worker of Jason's.  The boys LOVED her!  She hadn't always driven herself here but since she got her license, she drove using her dads car.  The boys were enamored with the fact that it was a BMW.  These boys love cars!  

All was well when Jason and I got home much earlier than expected that night.  We are old and we can't hang like we used to!  The babysitter told us they WALKED to the candy store in the neighborhood like we had discussed and then came home.  She also mentioned that they went to Bahama Bucks and the boys liked it a lot.  She left pretty quickly after we paid her as she normally did.  Nothing out of the ordinary.  

After she left, I got to thinking about HOW she took all 3 kids 3 miles down the road to the nearest Bahama bucks.  I also made a mental note to tell her that I prefer them NOT go anywhere they have to drive since I hadn't specified that before.  I usually left my keys in plain sight in case of an emergency situation but I never specifically said Do or don't drive anywhere.  Then I had this image of the cute 16 year old driving my minivan down the road and something just didn't seem right.  I checked the garage and there my super sporty Honda odyssey sits in the exact spot that I left it.  No way anyone could have pulled it in as precisely as I did.  

Ok, now I was worried.  I went and told Jason about my concerns.  How did our babysittter drive all 3 kids 3 miles away without so much as a car seat?  Clearly something was amiss.  
Jason is always so cool and collected and he said, "I don't know, we'll just have to wait until Jackson gets up in the morning and ask him."

So around 7am Jackson comes bounding into our room and our bed.  I sleepily looked up as Jason is already baiting him.

"Hey buddy, I heard you guys had fun last night!"

"Yep!  Babysitter took us to Bahama Bucks!"

"Oh yeah, that's good.  But how did you guys get there?"

"We got to ride in HER car!  Dad, did you know she drives a BMW?!"

"Yeah, I know buddy. What about your sister?  Where did she sit?"


"Oh, she stayed home, she was already asleep!"

Gasp.  can't.  breathe.  

He clearly saw our level of shock immediately and he went on to say that he'd questioned her on why they were leaving his sister at home alone and the babysitter assured him it would be fine, they wouldn't be gone long.  At that point I'm certain his desire for shave ice overcame his loyalty to his sister.  Besides, he's not one to question authority too much.

I wanted to react immediately.  Jason needed to think on it.  He's always so level headed.
After some thought he suggested I try to contact her and so I asked her to call me.  I never received a call after a day so Jason took it over her head and had to contact her father.

He apologized for her poor choice and was sincere.
I never heard from her and have since changed my babysitter routine.  I go over EVERY detail.  Especially the ones about NOT driving my children anywhere and never ever leaving one of them unattended for any amount of time.  This may seem overboard but clearly some things just need to be said and not just implied.

It took me several months to even book another sitter and I do prefer ones that are older than the 16 year old average.  But rest assured, I never leave the house without telling them that I expect them to stay put with my children in the house!

Monday, March 7, 2016

My Hot date to the Houston Auto Show

Jackson and I had a special day date down to NRG for the Houston Auto show.  It was exciting for him since he's such a car connoisseur.  He was able to tell me lots of things about the cars!  We tried to do all of the fun ride along things first.  These jeeps went over logs, and huge mountain type structures.   Some you couldn't even see over the top!  The next BIG thing was the two McLaren cars that were a late addition to the show.  Now, if you're like me, you thought McLaren was a fancy umbrella stroller but alas, there is also a CAR company called McLaren and they run in the range of 3-5 MILLION dollars.  Seriously, I couldn't even STAND that close to something that costs that much for fear of breathing on it the wrong way!  

Jackson had no problem posing with the overpriced pieces of metal on wheels though!  He thought it was super cool, along with most of the other people there!

Some of the other old cars were pretty cool to see also!  It gave me a real Downton Abbey feeling to see some of them!  

This was our ride in a Dodge Truck.  A mounted selfie camera would be a new car feature.  Why doesn't my van have one of those?  I'd be scared of what type of pics it might actuallly see!

Spider man was climbing all the buildings in town.  

And then he fell off the buildings...

He was also strong enough to turn this truck right over and sit inside the bed.  

Then he did a little tight rope walking across Niagara falls!  His skills as a super hero are pretty impressive!

We had a good time, and it was a great date with my oldest little who's growing up too quickly!  We grabbed greasy burgers before heading home for the day!  I hope he remembers these moments because they are times I never want to forget!

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Up from San Anton

Just after Christmas we finally made it out to the Hill Country.  We have been wanting to go since we moved here.  It's just a 3 hour trip but boy does the landscape change!  We visited a Hyatt Resort boasting with indoor/outdoor heated pools and even a (non-heated) lazy river! We also referred to the trip as our "culinary tour of San Antonio" because I had done all the research on the best of the best places to eat and we went out of our way to make sure we hit every single one.  I'm going to have to workout twice a DAY to work off this trip!

The first day we got there it was quite rainy.  We decided, let me rephrase that, I decided we would go to the outlet mall at San Marcos, I had heard there was a Lululemon outlet there and I was dying to check it out.  I wasn't disappointed and the guys made the best of it, even buying more than I bought myself.  

The place we stayed had one bedroom, a ginormous bathroom and a living room.  The boys took the sleeper sofa and Lillian, well she took the closet.  You have to be resourceful when you're traveling with 3 kids.  It was nothing a few blankets and a sound machine couldn't fix.

Since it was just after Christmas, the decor was still up and the ambiance was still there.   The giant fireplace captivated these two.  It was cozy since it was the actual one or two days of Winter we had in Texas this year.  

LouLou's bakery was famed for it's extra large cinnamon rolls.  It wasn't a fancy place by any stretch but the cinnamon roll was just perfect.  Shareable and delicious.  It was about as "Texas-sized" as they come.  It surprised even us when they brought it to the table.  The boys ate it for breakfast over the next 4 days, no joke!

I still got snuggles from the eldest!  


The Lazy river was NOT heated but these crazy cats thought they could still swim in it.  I had to get it on video and it was totally worth it.  Esp since Lincoln thought he could just climb out but quickly realized he'd have to use the stairs and it was painful!  Funny stuff!  
Later on he said his legs felt like ants were crawling on them!  Hypothermia maybe?  Haha!

  We couldn't leave without giving BBQ another try, even though we think Texas BBQ is a little sub par compared to Alabama BBQ.  We had called up some friends to meet us there also.  We met this couple at our last all inclusive resort right before we moved to Texas.  We were instant friends and have kept up through a couple of years and babies!  It was great to see them and get to meet their little one!  

She still lets me rock her to sleep and I didn't mind at all! 

You're looking at two of the best big brothers out there.  They love Lillian to pieces and it shows!

My biggest and littlest!  

We heard about the place that grills up Texas sized burgers and knew that was also on our culinary tour.  Chris Madrids was another dive that came up several times when asking the best of the best.  Nothing fancy on the outside but inside they server burgers that look like THIS!
Do you SEE all the ridiculous cheese coming off that burger?  

Then we finally made it to the Riverwalk.  I had been wanting to see this since I moved here and well, it wasn't as impressive and I might have thought but it was still something to see.  They were draining the water for cleaning so it was so low that you could see all of the trash and debris that was thrown into it.  (DON'T LITTER KIDS!)  The little still had a fine time running around there.  

Those are the famous umbrellas you see in lots of photos along the riverwalk.  

And this is what you look like when your family takes you on a whirlwind vaca and keeps you up far past your bedtime!  But this is also the look of exhausted FUN!