The Culprits

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Don't Forget About Mama

This has been a bit of a difficult month for me. As you know, I sent Micah off to camp (for. five.whole.days) three weeks ago. True to my word, I followed him there after a few days. I told him that, since he was only nine years old (and not ten, like his brothers were when they first went to camp), he could only go on the condition that he let me "stalk" him. I had only stuffed about fifty-three post-it-mommy-love-notes into all the pockets of his pants, his shoes, his bag of toiletries, his Bible, his note book, his hats, his gloves & his underpants. You know, so he wouldn't forget about his mama. Seth & Jarod remembered, fondly, when I did the same thing for them on their first trips to camp. They lovingly recalled reaching into their wallets for soda money, in front of their friends, and pulling out a love note from Mommy. With such sweet memories in mind, they vigorously begged me not to inflict the same fate upon Micah. Their plea fell on deaf ears, as I did not want him to feel unloved! Or to forget about me. Mind you, I know & trust all of the youth leaders & children's ministers in our church. They are absolutely amazing & I appreciate everything that they do for my children. They are such blessings to our family & are truly a special breed of human. But Micah is my baby and, well, I worry. And I missed him. A lot. I don't really look forward to sending any of my children away. Some people think that makes me crazy. I've never disagreed with those people. His camp went Monday through Friday. On Thursday we packed the camper and drove out to Micah's camp ground. I thought he might be home sick by now. I found him in the chapel, watching and performing skits with all his friends. I didn't want to interrupt, so I snuck in quietly and sat down right next to him.
He suddenly looked up, saw me, turned red, gasped, "MOM!" and buried his head in his hands.
I said, "Hi, honey! It's nice to see you too! Are you having fun?"
"YES, MOM." in a whispery kind of hiss.
"Do you want to go camping with us tonight or do you want to stay one more night?"
"Ok, honey! I love you! Bye!"
So, even though I knew he would really, really miss me & be very, very sad.........I let him stay one more night. We camped in a parking lot about five miles away, picked him up the next day (when all his friends were getting ready to leave as well), and set off to enjoy the rest of our camping trip.
I was happy to have my baby back. 

The rest of the week went like this:
Camp fires

Shooting lessons from Daddy

Playing in God's play ground

Nature walks

Pretty flowers

Pretty stream and pretty trees
Crazy-weird-cool trees growing out of other trees. OK. I only saw one of those.

Livin' it up in the wild, dinos & all!
"My nose is right here, mommy."

I love that I can send them to their room, even when we're camping.

Sadly, this trip, Jarod still wasn't able to shoot himself a squirrel for dinner, even though he did pack his special squirrel seasonings in his camp bag, just in case. Maybe next time, buddy. He did shoot some killer paper-wear!

Be vewy, vewy quiet. We're hunting wabbits.

The boys' favorite part of camping, I believe.

Such adventures!!!

This one is my favorite.

                                                                 So is this one.
And this one.
And this one.
And this one.
And this one.
                                                           This is my favorite doggy.
This is my other favorite doggy.

After three days we went home, unpacked, cleaned, did lots & lots & lots & lots & lots & lots of laundry & sent Seth off to camp with his buddies.

Seth came home & the next week, we sent Jarod off to camp with his buddies.

Now everyone is finally home, safe & sound.

For the most part.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Micah Goes to Camp

This is my sweet sleepy headed little Micah John on the drive to be dropped off for church camp this week. He's nine years old. I wasn't going to let him go to camp until he was ten, like I did with Jarod & Seth. But he wanted to go sssoooooooo badly. I know the children's minister & helpers a lot better than I did a year ago, when we were fairly new to our church. I know they do an AWESOME job with the kids. It's only two hours away. And, really.............would YOU be able to disappoint that cute little face??? Micah is an easy-going, sweet kid who doesn't ask for much. I had to let him go. But that doesn't mean I have to LIKE it.
                                        Brother hug!!!!!

                                       All ready to go!!!!!!!!

                               So excited to spend the week with his buds!!!!!

                                            Group hug!!!!!!!

             On the bus! I think he's a little too happy to be leaving me.

                      Boys dog-piled on Jarod while we waited to wave goodbye to the bus. Seth had disappeared somewhere with a friend who was there. While this still looks like a lot of boys, there will be a big hole in my heart until Micah is home.

          However..........we are ALL going camping this week (in a couple days). Coincidentally, of course. In the near vicinity of Micah's camp. Of course.....that is also a coincidence.

         Oh, but......if they see a strange woman lurking in the bushes outside the camp ground with a pair binoculars, it's not me. Nope. 

Saturday, July 9, 2011

The 4th

We celebrated Independence Day with my mother in law, Auntie Memmy, Auntie RaRa & Cousins Abi & Yaya. Mom made dinner, Sarah (RaRa) made strawberry shortcake. Of course we lit a few fire works. The usual. Justin used his cigar to light them. As you can see, Titus appreciates the woodsy scent.

The boys did bad things (as I said, "the usual"). The first five minutes we were there, Micah somehow managed to pull Mom's TV down on his head during a fun game of "hide in the TV-stand". The TV & the head were fine, don't worry. Isaac pulled Mom's clean towels out onto the floor in the bathroom just for fun. Some boys climbed Mom's wall. Literally. They found her rubber band stash & ran around the house shooting each other.

So we sent them to the back yard, where Gideon "helped" Mom by "weeding" her yard. Except it wasn't a weed. Isaac dunked all the dogs' stuffed toys into the kiddie pool. They dumped potting soil into the pool. They hung on her weeping willow a little too fervently & climbed her big planters.

So we went out front to blow stuff up.

                              Justin is really the best Uncle & Daddy EVER.

And just look at those sexy big muscles.

{Is it time for him to come home from work yet?}

                              Ready for fireworks!!!!!!
                    This reminds me of ET: "OUCH"

                      You know Micah means biz when that tongue comes out.

Love their enchanted faces.
But need a better camera.

It was a great evening. God bless America! How was YOUR 4th?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Heather Goes to VBS

Sometimes, I, Heather, have a bad attitude. I know. It’s hard to believe. Last week was our church’s Vacation Bible School. I admit, I was kind of grumpy about it. I partially raised my five younger siblings, when I was growing up. As a teenager, I was the neighborhood babysitter. After high school, I was a nanny, a daycare worker, ran my own in-home day care and taught Sunday school for years, all the while birthing my own permanent daycare of six boys. As much as I love my own children, and have loved other peoples’ children, one does become burned out eventually. Kids start seeping out of one’s ears and one’s brain starts to melt. I decided years ago, melted brain and all, that helping in the children’s ministry at church was not my calling any longer. My own kids became my main ministry. It’s the most important ministry I could have. I have spent many years in churches where I took on far too many responsibilities, becoming overwhelmed and spiritually spent. My passion is music ministry, as well as helping young moms. Since I have my own children whom I am immersed in daily, I need a break from that when I come to church. I set some healthy boundaries and have allowed myself to only be involved in the worship team, and occasionally bringing dinner to the high school youth group meetings. I badly needed these serving limits in my life, for my own sanity. But having so many children whom I place in childcare at church for others to watch during church, I have felt somewhat guilty for not helping in childcare ministry. To be honest, I’ve only helped out with VBS the past couple years to alleviate that guilt on a once a year basis. As VBS grew closer this year, I found myself less than excited about the early mornings, dragging six kids out of bed, dragging myself out of bed, driving my husband to work (we are a one car family right now) and then driving to VBS. 

The past few years, I have struggled with truly feeling God’s love for me. I have caught glimpses of it from time to time. When my kids lie and fight and hurt each other and knock holes in the wall with their Tonka trucks, paint their clean shirt with my new lipstick, when they decide to urinate in the front yard in front of all the neighbors, when they turn the bathroom floor into a swimming pool, when they keep me up at night and head butt me in their sleep………….I find that I still love them dearly. When they hug and kiss me, when I see them angelically snoring away at night (I firmly believe God created sleep so that parents would not eat their young), I find myself thinking how dearly God must love me to bless me so. When my kids hug and love each other and share with each other, it warms my heart deeply. As a mother, I cherish those times. Those times are less common than the times of fighting and mess making. I know that God must love it when his children love each other and show kindness to each other. He is probably sad when we do not. Maybe one way we can experience his love for us is by loving each other. I know this logically. I also know logically that God sees me as his child and loves me no matter what I do. Actually feeling the truth of that is another matter. It is mostly likely my own fault as I have not spent the time in prayer that I should. I have not given God much opportunity to show himself to me lately. He does not force himself on a person, so I have often gone about my life without drawing from that source of strength, although he is good and often aids me in ways I do not even ask him to. I have also found myself highly unmotivated to seek him. I cannot see him, touch him, or hear his literal voice. That is a problem for me. I have often asked him to pull me to him, to make me desire him, because on my own I do not. This is not something I am proud of, but it’s the truth.

VBS week arrived. The getting up early, the driving and the stress of getting to VBS daily was as I feared it would be: tiring and stressful. We also had to be at church every night that week for the older boys’ youth group meetings, for church (we go to the Wednesday service rather than the Sunday service), for VBS family night and for Celebrate Recovery. I felt like I was either in the car or at church. It was a very busy week.

While I do not volunteer in children’s ministry often, I apparently made a name for myself during last year’s VBS. Last year I had ten children in my crew, with no one to help me. The kids loved me. I’m not completely sure why. I just acted like a doofus, bribed them with candy and they fell for me. I ended up loving them in return and having a good time. I guess that the children’s minister thought I did so well last time that I had actually been bored and could really use more children in my crew this time around. So she placed me with fifteen kids. Bless her little heart. I was assigned two helpers, but I was afraid I would not bond with the children as well this time, due to the sheer number of children, the fact that I would be sharing them with two other helpers, and the potential for chaos. There were more kids over all attending VBS this year as opposed to last. Trying to keep track of fifteen children, in the midst of three hundred other children, moving from activity to activity……it was all a little bit frightening. I had two boys who kept trying to run away. I had some children who were shy and seemed sad. I had some children who really wanted to test me and see what kind of shenanigans I would tolerate. I had some children who could not keep their hands to themselves if their lives depended on it. I had a little ladies’ man who kept asking one little spit-fire of a girl to be his girl friend. She did not like that at all and came very close to beating him up. One of the older boys tried to tell me, during Bible discussion, that Jesus shows his love by helping him to poop. Really, kid? Do ya know who you’re dealing with?! Ya gotta wake up a lot earlier in the morning to shock this mom of boys! Besides, I supposed there was probably some truth to that. I just agreed with him and moved on.

As the week moved along, my crew became increasingly attached to me, and I to them. When they would misbehave I just made funny faces, dangled a bag of tootsie pops in front of them and they stood in formation at attention. We had a lot of fun just being silly. They gave me lots of hugs, pokes, attempted to pull my arms off and other such forms of affection. They even said nice little things like, “I like you, Miss Heather.”

All the while, the words of the children’s simple VBS choruses were seeping into my heart. “When I am afraid I will trust in you.” “I look up to Jesus, my help. I know I can’t do this myself.”

The missions focus was The Free Wheelchair Mission. We saw videos of people in poor countries who suffer because they are crippled and have to drag themselves on the ground to get around. We saw men, women (even pregnant women), children, old people…..there are millions of them…..who are disabled and live on the ground. The toll it takes on their bodies is horrendous. When they receive one of these cheap, easily assembled wheelchairs, it quite literally changes their lives. They are so incredibly happy to receive such a cheap, simple thing. My heart ached when I realized how often I spend sixty dollars on something so easily for my family or for myself. We have everything we need and more. One donation of sixty dollars to the Free Wheelchair Mission changes one life immensely for the better. I saw that some of God’s children were helping some of his other children to suffer less. As a parent, this touched me. I definitely don’t know why God allows some of the things that he allows in this world. I am not God. But I know that, if we are created in his image, and we mothers and fathers love our children so much…..that his love for us much be similar, if not greater, since we are all his children, since he died for his children. I know I would die for my children. I suddenly realized how it must touch his heart when he sees his children loving each other. He must hurt so deeply when we are cruel to each other or when we don’t care about the suffering of his other children.

Throughout the week, there was a lot of cheering during assembly times. The children’s minster would throw giant beach balls into the crowd of kids. Cheering, excitement and chaos would ensue. Bless her heart. There was cheering when Big D and Dude (a couple skit guys playing the part of some totally gnarly surfer dudes) would come up on stage. There was a lot of cheering on the days when the boys collected more money than the girls. There was a lot of cheering on other days when the girls collected more money than the boys. Our goal for the week was to raise enough money to buy twenty wheelchairs to help twenty people to get up off the ground and have a better quality of life. We wanted to show twenty people that someone cares for them, that God loves them and that he has not cursed and forgotten them because of something that they did wrong. On the last day of VBS, when the children’s minister announced that we had actually greatly exceeded our goal and raised enough money to buy one hundred and forty one wheelchairs, the cheer that went up from all three hundred-plus kids, in unison, was the most massive, ear-splitting, heart-rending cheer of the entire week. I admit it. I cried like a big fat baby. These amazing children were not only happy about who had won the contest, or about the crazy beach balls, or about the totally tubular surfer dudes. They were happy they helped one hundred and forty-one people to have a wheelchair. It was the most genuinely happy and excited cheer I have ever heard. It seared deep into my heart and soul and I will never forget it. It made me think that maybe God himself was cheering with them, that maybe he felt the same way as the children. Maybe he was cheering too because some of his children were loving some of his other children and easing their suffering.

Jesus said, “When you do it for the least of these, you do it for me.” I understand that. If someone were helping and loving my child, I would feel as if they were loving and helping me personally. My children are a part of me. A big part. They are my HEART. We are God’s HEART.

I don’t know how to explain it, but God used VBS week to show his love to me. It was something I thought I was doing “for the kids”, even though my heart was not completely in it. But God used those kids to show me his deep love for his children, including me. Me. I’m not saying that this feeling will last forever and that I’ll never struggle feeling his love again. I am not saying that I will diligently read my Bible and pray every day as I should, or that I am now a perfect person and that I am “fixed” now. But I actually want to be closer to the Lord because of his love. I don’t just want to be “good” or want to want him. I desire him. That is the gift he gave me through Vacation Bible School and through those amazing, sweet, naughty, gross, funny, brain-melting and loving children.

Saying goodbye to my crew was incredibly difficult and sudden. It was over in a blink. The week seemed so short to me. I miss them. Who knows? Maybe I will become more involved in our (gasp!) children’s ministry. At some point. Maybe.

***I should mention that Seth was a crew leader and Jarod worked in the nursery. They were both very hard workers, did a GREAT job & I was proud of them. There were a LOT of volunteers there who worked MUCH harder than I did, so don't feel too sorry for me. ;)

Micah made a little friend in his VBS crew. She did not want to let go of him and he was too sweet to ask her to. However, she did not like me, as I was her competition. Every time she saw me, we would fight over Micah. She would say, "He's MY PERSON! You can't HAVE him!"
During story time, she would glare back at me as if to say, "He's MINE!!!!!" 

Daddy got to play dress up on stage during a relay race on family night. Isn't he cute with his floatie?!

I wanted to take pics of my crew, but we were so busy, I never got a chance. Sorry to gyp ya'll like that. They were pretty cute kiddos.

If anyone wants to donate money the Free Wheelchair Mission to help someone like this:

or this:

or this:

or this:

 or this:

click here: