Jun 30, 2012

Hello Neighbor!

 Sooo, I got a big ol' slap in the face this last week on the whole lesson about loving your neighbor and stuff.

You see, on either side of us we used to have two great neighbors.  Their kids came in and out of my house. Shoot, we watched each other's kids in a pinch, we were friends, they watched our house when we were gone.  They were my friends.

And then wouldn't you know it, both of them up and moved on me this year.  Doggone it!  We really miss them!
So what's a gal to do but start praying about the new neighbors that would be moving in and how we could best love them.
On the left we got a nice family.....but they don't speak English and keep to themselves.  That was a bit of a disappointment.

So with bated breath, I waited to see who would buy the house on the right.

Well, a single hispanic older guy was all I ever saw drive in and out once the sign went down.  I never saw any furniture moved in though and he seemed to be rarely there.  What the heck?  Was he getting it ready to rent?  With almost every house on our street foreclosing or short selling in the last couple years (our neighborhood is only five years old), I really wasn't looking forward to another rental next door.

After a couple months went by, he didn't appear to be getting it ready to rent and seemed to actually be living there at least part time, though I still never saw any real signs of furniture or life over there.  So, figuring I'd better make friends with the guy, I attempted to wave a few times.

I got what appeared to be an angry glare.  I felt kinda huffy.  What the heck?????

So one day I was pulling out my trashcans by the edge of his driveway when he drove up.  He was only five feet away with the window down. I thought, "Here I go on the whole nice neighbor thing"....so... I waved and tried to walk over with my friendliest face.  I was going to introduce myself.

You know what he did???? He gave me a stare, rolled the window up, got out, slammed the door without giving me a look back.  It was obvious he was making it clear he was not talking to me.

Another time, I had Tone mow the grass that we share between driveways because his was getting so long.  He drove up while Tone was mowing his half, got out, and didn't say a thing and walked into the house.
But the next day he mowed the rest of his lawn.

We were wondering, how do we show that we care for a neighbor that doesn't communicate?  Do we mow the whole thing for him?  Do his weeding that he hasn't done?  Would that be terribly offensive on the other hand?

Now I was sure we had a jerk living next door.  So for the next month, we just stared at him cautiously as he came in and out.  He never made eye contact.

My imagination went wild.  Who the heck was living next door and what was he up too???  My mind would kindly interject that everybody has a story and perhaps there was a reason...but then I would think, "Yeah, like what kind of reason would one have to act like that?"

Maybe he saw my crazy kids and figured it's better to run for the hills or pretend we don't exist.  I mean I don't know.

This week, we were pulling out all of our camping gear to head for the hills for a few days with friends, when the guy got out of his truck and started waving his hands at Tone, obviously trying to get his attention.  Tone had in earphones for his music so he pulled them out.

Um, OK, guess what?
Our new neighbor is DEAF.
Yeah, slap me upside the head.
He is so hard of hearing that he can't have conversations with people very well and his hearing aids were out the day I was trying to talk to him.  He explained that he just avoids in those situations.

Yeah, and slamming his door at me?  I bet he didn't even know since he can't hear that.

He introduced himself and told Tone that he saw me wave but was unable to talk at the moment.  He said that he works close by, is single, and stays to himself because of his hearing loss, so let him know if his TV is too loud or anything.  So five minutes later I was (again) putting the trashcan out a day early for when we would be gone camping and he gestured again.  I really wasn't sure what he was trying to say.  Finally he just said in loud talking/ slightly slurred voice, "Put the can beside the house and I'll take it out for you so people won't know you're gone."
A smile broke out all over my face as I said, "Thank you so much!" Shoot, anyone can lip read THAT!
We got back from camping and there was our can by the side of the road where he put it for us.

I guess I TOTALLY learned my lesson about prejudging people.
Guess what?  I waved at him today and he waved back.

Jun 21, 2012

You Were Made For Something

Yesterday my daughter wanted to dance for the beautiful sunset.  It was long and involved giants leaps and dance moves on the sidewalk.  I was the strange one with my camera phone down on the ground cheering and taking pictures of her silhouette as she danced for me and the sunset.  

The cars continued to drive by.  A few people walking by stared.  No one else seemed to think the beautiful dance on the sidewalk was all that great.  It fact it was probably straight up strange to see a little girl doing a lively dance, humming and singing, while her mommy was down on the ground shooting pictures up at the sky.  

We were both marveling at God's creation.  

We were made for that.

You know, we were all made for something.  It makes my heart sink a little when people read my creative blog posts and ask me, "How do you do it? I feel inadequate."  Well, I do it because I was made for that.  Creativity is the beating of my heart.  It's the way I show love for people.  It's the way I was designed.  We were all designed.  You are not designed like me.  Oh, you may be creative, or not.  But there is so much to be admired and celebrated about you.  
There is nothing more beautiful to see people joyfully being what they were designed to be.  Nothing is more delightful to God to see us enjoying what He carefully crafted in us.

How did Ainsley respond to the sunset?  She danced and sang her little heart out.  I responded by seeing a beautiful picture and the artist in me wanted to capture the colors and movement.  And you know what? No one else noticed or cared.

The beauty of being what you made for is that it brings the freedom to dance your heart out.  It breaks through the prison bars of rules, laws, and constrictions. I can be free to create my heart out.  I know I have the freedom because the designer of the universe speaks to my heart and  breathes life into it when I do these things that He designed me for.  I create and He delights.  It's a joyful outpouring of love to the One who loves us.  It may benefit those around as it spills over into their lives, or they might drive on by.  They might think it's silly.  It's not.

You were made for something.  
Do it.
It might be strange. It might be radical.  It might be different.
I promise you will find your own kind of beauty.

Tomorrow morning I am heading off to a job interview.  Tone and I have decided that it is time for me to go back into teaching.  Besides creating, teaching is my other great love.  

But here is the clincher with what you were designed to be.

You can't be a hoarder.

Did you know that I taught in one of the "worst" schools in the state of California?  And it was middle school, 6th grade?  My class was overloaded.  I had more special needs students than I was supposed to have legally. CPS was called regularly. The test scores that were handed to me from my students were very very low.
And I LOVED it.  I loved my students.  I loved the parents.  And I saw a bunch of beat down kids who didn't know they were designed for something.  That they were really special.  I made it my mission those years to let them know it.  Test scores went way up those two years. I was so proud of them.
Some of them still call me.  

And then I got married and had my own kids. I took some time off teaching. I used my teaching gift to pour into them and there has definitely been a season for that.  But there comes a point when there is a fine line between sharing your greatest talents that you were designed to sing with all your might to God with, with those who need it most, and hoarding it for yourself and with family and comfortable people only. 

Well, with Ainsley going into kindergarten, Hunter in third grade and mature enough to handle going back into school, excellent daycare for Tessa right across the street, Tone's flexible current schedule which means Tessa will be home most of the week anyways, and a probable change in Tone's airline (thus a huge cut in salary at first) all looming all the horizon, it seemed we were being tipped out of our comfort zone once again.

No big deal, I thought, I'll go back to teaching.  Here's the kicker.  There are no jobs.  There was a surplus when I got out 5 years ago.  What is God doing?
Taking away the "prime" jobs to push me to where He wants me most.

Guess what kind of school I am interviewing with tomorrow?  
God is not subtle at times when He calls you out.  
I am interviewing for a second grade position at a school that is 100% hispanic, 87% are on free lunch, and test scores are low but climbing and making great strides.  I am so very familiar with this scenario. I am actually excited to possibly be a part of a school that is making such a difference in the lives of the students.  I belong in this type of environment.
Can I add another kicker to this?  Tone and I decided that wherever I teach, I should bring our children if possible.  Now that's another whole ball of wax.

Why?  Why would we DO that? The school one block from our house is one of the best in the state.  

We believe that celebrating God and His design for us, means sharing that as a family.  It means getting involved in people and community.  It means letting our kids be the only blonds in the school and become friends with kids who live on much less than we do. It means believing that the only way to actually show love to those people over there is to be where they are and really love those people over there.  It means showing them that God's design and love and use for people does not have color, affluence, educational benefits or any other line you can draw.  I believe those students are all precious, beautiful people designed on purpose to do something. It means putting my own kids in a school where something good is happening and believing in a cause and getting behind it with the vote of my children too.
They are people we want to know and join.
And that is quite a radical statement.  And sometimes it's really really scary.
I know some people will think I am really really stupid like Ainsley's pretty dance on the sidewalk.

Now I don't actually know if I will get that position tomorrow.  I do know I am willing to place myself AND my kids there.  Being willing in itself is quite humbling. I do know that God will place me where He thinks I can best "dance" for Him.  I also know that when the interview ends, I will be asking:

"Can I bring my children to this school?"

You see being who God designed us to be brings joy and freedom.  It brings the freedom to break through barriers, it brings the freedom to know that God can have us dance wherever we are placed.  
I have a deep seated confidence that whoever we encounter needs to know they were designed for something and that they are intimately loved, and that the ultimate in life isn't to have the best education, scramble up a ladder, or achieve some amazing feat.  

The ultimate is to know I am loved deeply, crafted wonderfully, and I am willing to say to my breathtakingly lovely God, "Take this dance you have given me to whomever to bless whomever you want. Make me excel in it as love for You."

Dance on Ainsley.  

PS. I wrote this two days ago and waited to post it.  I am meeting with the superintendent as a final canidate for the job this next week.  Look like I got it.  
And I asked the question.  We will be doing the steps to get my kids in school there if possible.

A Butterfly Fairy Tea Party - Part 2

 Yesterday, I showed you all of my phone pictures of tea party set up.  They were not the best ones, but the day of the party, I asked my sister to come over and take pictures for me.  I realized with a million little ones and Mommy friends to talk to, and running a party, pictures were not going to be first priority.  So my sister snapped all of these for me on my camera.  Thank you Krista.  
  I used my plain white tea cups and put out a little doll set at each place as well for their dollies to pretend to drink as well.  Ainsley requested black cherry tea.  Of course she did.  It had cherry in the name. It was iced and not hot as little girls can burn themselves and really I think they like cold tea better. Also it was 105 degrees outside.  No joke.   
 Favors were cheesy Tinkerbell odds and ends but at least they were wrapped cute with teacup tags and organza bags. Here was the tea table set up.  The girls sat on cushions around my coffee table.  It was the perfect size for five year olds.
 We played dress up to kick our party off.  The girls got to pick out a fancy outfit from Ainsley's vast collection and check themselves out in the mirror.  What do you think Ainsley?
 Then I let them put on lip gloss and light pink glittery eye shadow.  Fairies are glittery don't you know.  Oh yeah, this was a Tinkerbell fairy butterfly tea party, so we definitely tried to get all that in there the day of the party.  You try that.  It took some crazy inventing, but that's what Ainsley wanted.  Also, I'm here to keep it real.  I realized when everyone arrived I had yet to get my youngest ready.  She was still bare bottomed under her dress from potty training and her hair was ratted out as it hadn't been combed yet.  I stuck a diaper on her quickly and called it good.  She still dressed up with the five year old glamour pros.
I used a couple of old suitcases to throw the dresses in.  My backdrop is a shower curtain. True statement. Crates, and old mirror, butterfly wings and a little chair draped with necklaces and scarves (to the left unseen) completed the look.

After dressing up, we made tea party hats.  If you missed how I prepped them, go back a day in my posts (they are basically just paper plates and bowls).  I  did my best, by the way, to look the part of a tea party hostess the day of as well.  How about a fifties dress and apron?

The girls picked out five flowers from Dollar Tree bunches I ripped off the stems and threw in a basket the day before.  They brought them to me and I glued them to the tops of their hats.

The hats were really adorable.
Then it was time for tea!
 I really thought the girls would eat in two seconds and be done.  They sat there forever.  I think they liked it more than I thought.  Don't you love how the lion is propped up to join them?
   I even put cream and sugar on the table.  Guess how many girls put sugar in their tea?  All of them.  That's why I put a miniscule spoon in the sugar bowl.   Just in case though I also offered some juice and a couple of girls after one taste of tea asked for it. 
 I served finger sandwiches with fruit and chips.  I wanted all the kids to actually like lunch.  They polished off that whole tray and all the fruit.  Dainty girls can eat I tell you.
Fabric banners hung behind the birthday chair.

 See my miniscule sugar spoon?  Also, each cup had a different colored ribbon tied on the handle so they wouldn't get their cups mixed up.
I seriously was going to say no presents, but when I told Ainsley, she seriously thought I was joking and then gave me the MOST evil look.  She had never been to a party where there were no presents.  So I reluctantly tabled that and she got to open presents in the fancy chair.
I knew Tessa was going to be eyeing those bad boys too, so I took some old preschool puzzles of Hunter's that he had outgrown and wrapped them for Tessa.  They were new to her and it solved buying Tessa anything or asking friends to bring two presents for the girls.  It is fresh in Tessa's mind that she gets presents with Ainsley too since their birthdays are together.
Then it was time for cake.  I found these Wilton wrappers, and with plastic butterflies on the top, they turned out pretty darn cute.  I have a couple of different cake plates so I just stacked them to make a cupcake tower.
Ainsley got her own little three tiered cake.  She was delighted with it.  Three other girls decided to help her eat it after they had polished off their cupcakes.  I told you these dainty girls could chow down.

We gave Tessa her own little cupcake to blow out as well.  She's two!
She knew just what to do and blew it out all by herself.

We didn't play any games.  I know little girls would much rather run off to play and do their own games and so they did before it was time to go.  
Happy birthday to my beautiful little girls!  I love you both so much!
PS. If you missed it, here's part one where I was prepping the hats and setting it up.

Jun 20, 2012

The last two weeks via Instragram

It's another instagram, "what have I been doing with my so called life", picture dump.
I know you want to know.
Okay well here's my juicy gossip about my life, fascinating as it.
First up.  One of my hydrangeas started blooming the week of Tessa's birthday.  It's pretty cool because it was given to me when Tessa was born and I planted it in the garden.  This hydrangea has really different flowers on it too which are eye catching and gorgeous.
This was the first time all three of us painted our toe nails together.  In the life of a mother-daughter relationship, I felt this was monumental and documented it.  We even have matching white flower stickers.  Oh my my.
One night while we waited for Hunter to get home from Boy Scout camp, Ainsley and I sat out on the front porch together and took pictures.  I love summer evenings.
Hunter had his last baseball game of the year.  He is on the Giants.  We are A's fans.  So I broke down and wore the only orangey thing I had to support him.  
He did great!  He actually got three good hits off the "t" which we worked all season for.  We celebrated with icecream at McDonalds.
Tessa wakes up like this every single morning.  It's rather incredible.  It takes a lot of water and spit shine to get that out.
Here she is all combed out.  We are potty training this week so clothes are optional.  She went almost a week without any success.  She knew if she went in the potty chair she would get MM's, but she wouldn't.  Ainsley finally said, "I want some MM's. I'll go potty in her chair,"  and before I could stop her she sat right down and did while showing Tessa.  So thinking this could be a good learning example, however odd, I gave Ainsley MM's.  Tessa studied it for two minutes, then sat right down and peed in the potty chair.  
Ainsley, you might just have been my favorite daughter right then.
Ainsley had her first dance recital on a big stage.  It was absolutely hysterical.  She was SO excited and was bouncing around the house all day about her outfit and real makeup.  The actual performance she tried so hard to keep up with the music.  She almost tripped and her movements were way over done.  Right the middle she did a big exaggerated sigh and body droop.  She stole the show.  Thank you Ainsley for being the comedic relief to an otherwise really LOOOOOOONG show.  We are so dang proud of your hard work this year.  Ballet was a challenge for her and hard sometimes, but she stuck with it and finally made it to the big show.
Summer days have been hot!  I have enjoyed working in my garden in the hour before sundown when everything cools off.  Flowers and gardening are a form of therapy for me.
We are starting to put on a show for the street.
Hunter has been at Boy Scout camp from 3 to 8:30pm everyday.  It's little boy heaven.  He's shot BB guns, bow and arrows, learned to cast for fish, and ran around getting sweaty with a lot of other boys.
He looks impressive, right?
My sister didn't want this chair anymore and it became mine.  It has broken two front feet for Tone to reattach so right now it's on blocks looking ghetto.  However, it's an easy fix and I love it and it's in good shape otherwise.  Also, I feel like I should be male, in a velvet robe with my cigar and brandy every time I sit in it.  It's definitely a reading chair, right?
What's this one?  Just a typical pic I find filling up my camera all the time.  My kids are suckers for silly pictures.  
It's my daily life.

A Butterfly Fairy Birthday Tea Party - Part 1

Part one isn't near as pretty as part 2.  I'm here to let you know so that I'm keeping it real for my peeps.  Tomorrow I'll post all of the pretty party pictures.  Today are just the instagram pics I took of my party prep.  It took a full day to prep but I enjoyed every second because when I plan a creative party, I get on some kind of creative party happy that not even whiney children can break.  So you see it's a pretty big high.  I am planning a Tinkerbell fairy butterfly tea party for Ainsley's fifth birthday.  Try saying that three times fast.  I know there are a lot of themes mished up there, but that's how it sort of evolved in Ainsley's mind as she explained it to me.  It worked. Oddly.
 I recommend coffee in a pretty mug to start off with.  It really has nothing to do with the party except that it makes my day a whole lot happier and gets my work off to a great start. Coffee in hand, I made some invitations that were pretty simple.  I already had pretty notecards so I cut out some teacups with my silhouette machine and stamped TEA on the front.  Done and done.
 We ran by Party City to get a few token little Tinkerbell things so that the Tinkerbell part of the theme was in there.  I recommend NOT bringing all three kids into a party store. All rules like "do not touch in a store" and "stay with Mommy" seemed to go out the window in that place. They got dizzy with all the little bins full of trinkets and the character themes everywhere and went crazy. It was not my finest parenting moment. They were selling these napkins and I snapped a pic to document my current mood.  It fit wonderfully.
 Anyhow, I'd like to forget that piece of my lifetime spent, and I'm moving on to document how I made the tea party hats. I cut the middle out of a paper plate, hot glued a bowl to the bottom side and there was a hat.  I punched two holes in the side and threaded tulle over the top and through the sides to make a Mary Poppin-ish tie.  Confused?  Well, it'll make sense tomorrow when you see them in action.  I prepped these ahead of time so that decorating them was easy the day of.

 Here is the tea party set up.  There were six little girls invited, but with siblings and Mommies also coming, I didn't have room at the table for all.  So the girls got their own little setup and I left the big table for more seating and food presentation.  The girls sat on little cushions and it worked really well.  Plus they could reach much better.
 Here is a better view of the hat making station.  The girls got to pick 5 flowers and I hot glued them to the tops.
No fairy tea party is complete without some pretty clothes. We set up a dressup station too. Ainsley has a HUGE trunk filled with dress ups and we just pulled out all the glittery ones and set up a mirror and backdrop.  I also put a bunch of scarves, fancy headbands, bracelets and necklaces on a chair.
 A family tradition that I had when I was little and still continue with my kids is making the kid's cake the night before for the kids to find when they wake up in the morning.  We had flower cupcakes with butterflies on top, and I made Ainsley a tiny little three tiered cake of her own.  I would have gotten a better picture in the morning, but a certain two year old found it and dug fingers through the frosting before I rescued it.  I managed to fix it, but the frosting continued to look a little wonky.

 Here is the big table set up the night before. Ainsley was thrilled to wake up and see it. Since Tessa turned 2 the same week as Ainsley, we gave her a token 2 candle cupcake as well.
So there you have it.  Stay tuned for part 2.  I promise it has the pretty pictures.  Although I throw real life parties.  Anyone ever notice how parties pictured on most blogs make you think, does anyone in real life actually attend and is this a real place?  Is this all staged?  
I'm here to tell ya.  Mine are real, and fingers get drug through my cakes.