Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Vacation Destination

We've traveled to Austin to enjoy our first true family vacation in about 18 months.

For all the reasons to love Mike owning his own business and being at the house 24/7/365, not having sick days or comp days or vacation to use is the biggest drawback.  When you own your own business and conduct it out of the house, nobody requires you to take time away.  There's no one to infect in the office if you show up sick. And comp days means "no pay".  So, when it comes down to taking a day off, Mike has trouble justifying the time and expense.

Hence, plenty of time between family vacations for the Nowells.

But, when Nickels and Hooman found themselves geared up for competition in the Nationals Taekwondo tournament in Austin?  Daddy couldn't figure out how to change the outgoing voice mail message on his business number fast enough.

There are two logical equations that explain this:  Sports + Men = Competitiveness.  Competitiveness + Local Location = Vacation.

I began planning for this trip several weeks ago.  I had the hotel booked, side excursions planned, a budget created.  We were set to go.

Then, on our way through East Texas a few weekends ago, I saw a hotel chain I had never noticed before.  One that promised "apartment style" accommodations at a weekly rate.

The cheap person at the core of my being began to salivate and convinced me I should at least check out the website.  So, I did.  And, it seemed legit!

So, I booked the rooms, threw caution to the wind, and canceled the reservation to the normal Marriott chain we use.  And filed this under "NEW ADVENTURE".

Since arriving, Mike and I have been reminding ourselves "Look at us!  We've tried something new!"*  That we should be proud of the fact that we ventured out of our normal comfort zone.  That it's not so bad to have to sleep in separate rooms because of this hotel's ridiculously low occupancy levels.

We knew, coming in, that there were quirks we'd be dealing with.  If we wanted a coffee pot or dishes, we'd have to "rent" them.  But, they'd be ours to keep!**

They'd provide one bar of soap and one roll of tp.  If we wanted to wash dishes, we'd need to bring our own towel, dish cloth, and dish soap.  CHECK.  PACKED 'EM!

Our first indication that there might be something "off" was the phone call to get a GPS address.  Since the address on our confirmation sheet was based on an Interstate address, the GPS showed it's butt and wouldn't cooperate.  Sadly, neither did the employee who answered the phone, who, obviously had answered this same, exact question at least 50,000 times in the last hour and was beyond tired of it.  "Just exit Braker Lane going north on 35" was the best she could do.*** 

When we arrived, Mike was still pissed about the lack of address help, so I had the privilege of checking us in.  My favorite part?  Being asked for both our licenses so they could run a sex offender check on both of us.

Yes, you read that right.  Reread that again:  they did a background check on us to be sure we weren't sex offenders.

At first we were all "HOLY MOSES!  What kind of place did I book?"  Then, I totally saw the glass half full:  all the other hotel chains?  Probably FULL of sex offenders because NOBODY IS CHECKING!  We are all caged up together knowing none of us has a record.  SWEET.

Yes, the rooms are sparse.  Yes, I had to fill out a check-in list to be sure the person before us hadn't palmed any of the blankets, sheets, pillowcases, etc.  Yes, we will probably NEVER use this hotel chain again.

But, we're realized that we could live in a very small space together without pulling each other's heads off.  We've had the chance to meet some really nice guys who are working on a new warehouse facility in Buda.****  And, the boys have completed one of their competitions at nationals and learned that the competition is fierce, but they are pretty tough, too.

If vacations were really all about where you stayed?  We'd probably have to call this one a bust.

Thank goodness time away is really about building memories (good and bad), spending time together, and relaxing with the people you love the most.

In that respect?  This is the vacation of a lifetime.

*And that's a good thing, right?? 

**We brought paper plates, fork, napkins, etc. and I've been going to the local Exxon for coffee when I want it.

***I knew she wasn't being completely rude when I was checking in and she answered another call for a GPS address.  Time to fill out a comment card!

****Geography lesson for all the Nowells.

Saturday, June 25, 2011


Overheard in the car this morning...

Nickels:  "How about this?  It's a pillow!  It's a pet!  It's a real, live dragon!  Introducing the pillow pet that's a dragon!  It breathes real fire, so don't lay on it's head.  On sale now for one installment of $9.99 and five installments of $2 million each." 

And, then, in a low, deep voice:  "Since all dragons are different, results may vary."

Then Hooman chimed in:  "Or...It's a pillow!  It's a pet!  It's a komodo dragon pet!  Introducing the pillow that's a komodo dragon.  But, watch our for that spit because it will paralyze you.  And then, eat you alive!"

And, then, in a low, deep voice:  "Not recommended for children under 42."

Future Marketers of America?

You ain't got nothing on my boys.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Grateful Beyond Words

Yesterday was one of those days. The kind that start with "Mom, can we? Can we? Can we?" and end with the obligatory parent give-in.

Honestly, there was no harm in what they wanted to do: go to the hobby store to spend their long-term savings. Which had been building up for a year.

It was just the hour of the day they wanted to do it. Rush hour, to be exact. Middle of dinnertime. Probably the most inconvenient time of the day for any Mother on planet Earth.

Now, if you REALLY want to have your wish granted at that hour, you ask Daddy. And that's exactly what my little cherubs did. And since Mike was looking for a good reason to close his computer and get away from the ills of the business world, he acquiesced and off they went.

Here is where is gets dicey. Generally, when the kids and Mike leave the house, I busy myself with all the activities that I've managed to ignore all day long: dishes, laundry, sweeping, etc.

But, this one time, I looked up and thought "I'm sure glad Mike chose to take the Armada*." For some reason**, I just felt safer with them in that car during rush hour, especially considering they were going all the way down 75 to Walnut Hill.

When Mike got home he said "Come here." And he grabbed me and gave me a hug, the likes of which I haven't felt in a while. And he relayed the following story:

He was first in line at a stop light and knew, as he sat waiting for the green light, that he needed to cross several lanes of traffic to get over to the far left lane to enter the freeway. So, he was a little anxious waiting for the light to turn to be "first" so he could manage this maneuver.

Uncharacteristic of Zach, he chose not to say anything when he saw a Honda Accord barreling down the road, about to cross straight in front of the car.***

Mike never saw the red vehicle even approach the intersection. Only Zach did. Mike estimates that it was going 60-70 mph. It barely missed clipping the front of the car. And it never slowed down, as if the driver felt he had right-of-way and was driving on the Autobahn.

Needless to say, we feel like we dodged a giant bullet. Our house has most definitely been under attack lately, so we are taking this as a big, fat reminder that God has our backs.

Truly, had Mike accelerated any faster, the Armada would have been T-boned. The force of the impact would have killed at least one of the boys and, possibly, Mike. Given the speed involved, it could have meant a fire, which surely would have been disastrous.

It's those "near misses" in life that cause you to pause and be so, very grateful that we have a God to carry us. These types of circumstances remind us of the fragility of life and how things can change on a dime.

Even if that accident had turned out to be a terrible tragedy, God STILL would have been with us. We would have eventually found gratitude in our memories of what had been and rejoiced in whatever part of our family was left.  The battle would have become one in our hearts and how we chose to deal with an outcome that was less then favorable for the time we are on planet Earth.

Even though the other driver almost permanently changed our world yesterday, I covered him/her in prayer this morning. I prayed s/he was in a place of feeling a little shaken over their driving mistake and realized the implications of blowing through that light and wouldn't do it again****.  That, if s/he was drinking, that this experience would be a huge wake-up call. And, if s/he was suicidal, that s/he would turn to God and allow Him to redeem the hurt and pain.

Above all, I couldn't find enough ways to give praise to God, who covers us in ALL ways, in ALL times, and in ALL His glory. 

Thank you, Lord, for the privilege to spend another day with the family you blessed me with.

*5300+ pounds of man-grunting steel and hp.

**GOD. Nothing but.

***Generally, Zach is really good at spotting things on the road and making sure they are brought to your attention. I have to wonder if a reaction from him would have caused Mike to panic and caused an accident due to acceleration?

****This part of my prayer seemed a little self-serving until I heard a news report on the way back from dropping the boys at Boot Camp.  Seems a man who killed a young girl in a horrific accident is coming to trial next week.  I had to wonder "If he had almost had an accident before that had shaken him up, would this have happened?"

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

THE Talk

Many of you reading this blog can't imagine that adolescence is coming to your house at the speed of light. Some of you have long since passed adolescence with your children and your grands are approaching it. A couple of you might be in the throes of it and hate me for even going there.

Wherever you may be, whether you are raising a boy or a girl, I have a book to recommend: "Preparing for Adolescence" by Dr. James Dobson.

Nickels and I have been reading through the book together this summer and it has been eye-opening for both of us. From his perspective, he had NO IDEA this stuff had come/is coming down the pike. From my perspective, I had NO IDEA he was so completely unaware of how his older friends are changing.

Dr. Dobson covers the gamut: self-esteem (or lack thereof in teens), peer pressure, physical changes in puberty*, myths about love, and emotions. There is even a discussion between the doctor and several teens that concludes the book.

Now, maybe, you are squarely staring adolescence in the face and you haven't even mentioned the word SEX to your kids. And the thought of starting with Dr. Dobson sounds daunting. Where to start?

Long, long ago we started introducing Nickels and his brothers to the concept of sexuality. Thanks to a wonderful speaker I once listened to at a MOPS meeting (Mary Flo Ridley--check her out on the web), we started with very basic information about plant seeds. Then we moved to how, BY GOD'S DESIGN, our boys' bodies were equipped with life-giving seeds. As they asked questions, we provided age-appropriate answers, all the while using anatomically correct terminology.**

If you find yourself in the position of staring your child in the eyes while you are both standing, you can still use Ridley's tactics. You'll just be moving from "Apples have seeds, just like Mom and Dad do" to "Moms and Dads have seeds called eggs and sperm" at a very brisk pace.

But, it is never too late to establish those lines of communication. And, if you are starting at square one, and need pictures and illustrations that are tasteful and accurate, you might check out the "God's Design for Sex" series. Book 1 (ages 3-5) was just the ticket for The Babe; Book 2 (ages 6-8) took Hooman to the next level of understanding.***

How would you use a book designed for 3-8 year olds for your pre-teen? YOU read the book. YOU decide what pictures you need for illustration. YOU determine the course of conversation. And you HAVE IT!!

Another tactic? After your first conversation involving the books, leave them in an obvious place for your pre-teen to "accidentally" find. Trust me, if they are interested in the topic, those books will suddenly disappear.

Even though Nickels had the information from both "God's Design for Sex" 1 and 2, he gobbled them up again when they were left on the kitchen table. He even gave me his guidance on whether or not they would be appropriate for The Babe and Hooman. And he was RIGHT!

Nickels has already, at the tender age of 11, started the process of becoming a man. We're seeing the roller coaster of emotions, the overreactions, and the desire to spread his wings far and wide. I'm sure many of you are seeing the same things.

Instead of being scared of what is around the corner, why don't you join me in doing what God created you to do as a parent: be the primary source of information for your kids about sexuality.

I'm sure you don't want Hugh Hefner or the Internet or that kid down the street who has seen Basic Instinct telling your kid everything about sex. But, when kids get curious, they'll seek out information from whomever is delivering. Why not make that person YOU?

Sure, it can be embarrassing. Sure, it can be daunting. Sure, it's about as fun as an annual colon screening. But, it is necessary. And, probably most importantly, it is your job. A job you took on when God made you a parent.

So, to the glory of the one who blessed you with your own sexuality and those wonderful kids in the first place, go do the best job you can possibly do.

*This includes a discussion about boy's issues related to privates. I will let you figure out the rest, but will let you know, if you are a Mom doing this study with your son, you NEED a Daddy to help out with half of this chapter.

**Frankly, I think it is harder for parents to use the words "penis" and "vagina" than it is for a kid to hear them.

***Now I am reading Book 3 and plan to incorporate it into Nickel's summer reading list. Though it is a bit hokey, I think the message underneath is worthy. Book 4 awaits us when we are squarely in the 11-14 demographic and have the time.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Ten Free Polite Acts of Kindness

1. When you are driving, wave at anyone in your neighborhood who is walking their dog.

2. Throw your neighbor's newspaper on their porch so it doesn't get soaked by the sprinklers.

3. Make eye contact with the cashier at the grocery store and ask how his/her day is going.

4. When you eat out, say "Please" and "Thank You" any time you are asked if you'd like your drink refilled.

5. Take the time to walk out your front door and greet a neighbor who is also outside.

6. Put water in a bowl for the birds that come into your yard.

7. Next time you take a walk, take a small trash sack with you and do an impromptu trash collection, especially along the busiest road in the neighborhood where the property is owned by the city.

8. Turn on your blinker so other drivers will know where you are going.

9. When you arrive at a stop sign at the exact time as someone else, wave them on through first.

10. Smile at everyone. Including animals. Even those darn squirrels. :)

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Daddy Mike

A big, fat shout-out to the wonderful man our kids call Daddy, Mike.

Thank you for putting up with me for almost thirteen years of marriage and fifteen years of knowing each other.

Thanks for agreeing that having a kiddo sounded like a great idea. I knew at my 30th birthday party, when you held my darling Godson, that you were going to be an awesome man to raise children with. Thanks, too, for saying "Yes" when it came time to have number two. And, for making it mathematically impossible to ever again have our family tree show more parents than kids when we tried that one last time.

Thanks for letting me run all my crazy, hair-brain ideas past you at all hours of the day or night. I love it when I'm still talking at 2am and your left eye just can't take it anymore and starts to shut, while your right eye is at "ATTENTION!"* Oh how I want to laugh when that happens!

Thanks for being my partner and biggest support in figuring out how to help the kids. Sometimes I worry that you think, just because you don't attend the appointments or dole out the supplements or do the Bergman program, that you don't have a huge part in the kids' progress; but, you do. With you standing on the sidelines cheering us all on and providing the financial and emotional support we need, we are ALL finding success.

Thank you for being the provider God once whispered I could expect. I never doubted what He told me, I just couldn't imagine how wonderful this life could be. Never once should you think that I don't notice all you go through, on a daily basis, to make your business thrive and provide such an amazing life for your family.

Mostly, thank you for being awesome, kind, generous, friendly you. You are truly the man/husband/father I would pick over and over again.

Happy Father's Day! Jill

*Sadly, this has never stopped me from continuing to talk.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Why Didn't I Think of That?

I just read the following portion of an article on "Extreme Penny Pinchers".

Most of the folks quoted in that article probably could have used a little injection of common sense, but the following family is teaching their kids a thing or two about good, old-fashioned financial cents*. And, along the way, there are some built-in lessons that are side benefits of this little experiment.

I, for one, LOVE IT.

I Make My Kids Pay for Dinner

Name: John Snyder
Hometown: Boyne City, Mich.

On a recent family vacation, my wife and I decided that -- after the first night of eating out -- the rest of the nights each kid would pay half the bill.

The child whose turn it was to pay would also be able to choose the restaurant. So after a tab of $73 the first night (for a family of five), we moved on to Chick-fil-A the next night ($26 total), and pizza the night after that ($32, after using the coupon that my daughter found).

It was funny watching the kids act out, and say to each other, "You guys can share!" or "No, you're getting water!" -- the things I'm usually thinking while biting my tongue.

As parents you always hate to be the ogre saying: "You don't need that." So you just sit there and spend your money, but this made them do it themselves and it was fun for them, because it turned into kind of a game -- with all of them looking for coupons and special deals when it was their turn to pay.

Because of these discounts and how much pressure the kids put on each other to save money, we potentially saved at least $50 a night. A couple of our younger kids had to take out a loan from us for some of the dinners, but they'll be paying that back.

We'll continue doing this on vacations. We're going to a wedding in Wisconsin in July, and my five-year old got off free on the last vacation, so he probably owes us one.


I know some people will read this and think "Gosh. Those parents are EXTREME." But, I read this and thought "Holy cow! These people are BRILLIANT!!"

Way ahead of the time they are going to have to parent, these kids are learning the value of thinking through and acting on the impulse to go full-out at restaurants by ordering every extra offered. They aren't getting the souvenier glasses or the five-serving desserts or up-sizing. This is not only a lesson in spending but also a lesson in portion control and restraint.

The kids are learning that it isn't cheap to raise progeny. Eating out gets expensive fast, especially on vacation when parents are tired and out of their routine and quasi-relaxed and not in the mood to deal with the whining and "PLEASE!?!?!" and begging that most kids manage to master at age three. Looks like the kids in the story learned the value of old-fashioned water vs. soda pretty quickly to me. Not to mention the dreaded couponing.

They are also being taught a lesson in sharing. Since each child is responsible for a night out on the town, no one can argue or fuss or fight about where the family is going. That takes stress off Mom and Dad! Big, fat, over-the-top bonus.

I LOVE this idea. We are planning a trip in a couple of weeks and I think I am going to use the concept on the kids. I'm sure, if nothing else, it will turn into a hysterical blog post in the future.

Happy CHEAPER Vacationing!

*Get it??? Punny, huh?

Friday, June 17, 2011

Boot Camp

Nickels and Hooman are getting ready for the Taekwondo nationals tournament right now. That means getting up at 6:30am, being on the local high school track at 7:30am, and participating in boot camp.

If you doubt the sincerity of the statement "boot camp", let's just say that Master had full-size tires on the track this morning, with waist harnesses around them, just waiting for the kids.

Being an occasional-optimist, Hooman was doubtful that Master was enough of a sadist to actually be true to his word, so when we pulled up alongside the field and he saw those Firestone beauties? He let out a sigh for the ages.

This has been quite an experience for the boys. Sure, they've had their hour-long baseball practices where they ran bases or attempted to catch long balls or did push-ups. But, this? This is a horse of a different color.

This is something I personally need. It's a daily butt-whoppin' in every aspect of the word, with no set of muscles or ounce of lung left untouched.

When the kids got in the car earlier this week and exclaimed that they had run two miles for the first time without stopping, I had an idea. And, before I could stop my mouth from speaking*, I had volunteered to start training for a 5K and run with them.

Needless to say, they were stoked. I don't think they had a clue that I used to run 5Ks with alarming frequency and attend kickboxing classes and do step-aerobics for hours during the week. They were unaware that I would start at the head of the White Rock Trail, cycle the length of it, and be off my bike before breakfast was served on most Saturday mornings.

In fact, I don't think my kids think much about me and my life before they were around, before I subjected my body to pregnancy and breastfeeding and countless nights of little-to-no sleep. So, I am going to subject them to a little bit of the cool Mom I can be.

I'll do my best not to embarrass them when we run together by moving just a bit faster than the 70-year-old men who paced me on the course last time I ran a 5K.** I'll try my hardest not to pee out of the obligatory maxi pad I HAVE TO WEAR now that my female parts have birthed three kids. I'll attempt to make it across the finish line in a respectable time without barfing or crying or pumping my fists as I hum the "Rocky" theme song loud enough so everyone can hear it.***

Maybe this will be the start of something the boys and Mom can do together? Something that will give them a lifetime of health and an appreciation for the sport?
And, maybe. Quite possibly. I might find that woman within me who used to love to run and cycle and aerobicize.

If, with all the training I'll need to do, I discover the cure for my chicken-wing arms? THAT will be a bonus.

*This is how most of my troubles start. I forget to engage brain first and tongue second.

**The only consolation was that he was known by everyone on the stinkin' course. Two seconds wouldn't pass by where someone wasn't shouting his name or high-fiving him or smiling his way. Obviously, NOT a rookie, like me, in Dallas running society.

***One of my proudest memories from a five-mile race in the West End: passing two muscle-bound twenty-something men in the last 1/4 mile of the race while channeling Rocky. It was epic. At least, in my mind.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

10 Random Things I Don't Want at a Significant Discount

1. Acupuncture
2. Condoms
3. Sushi
4. Brake work
5. Skydiving
6. Blood Transfusions
7. Liposuction
8. Foundation Work
9. Bee-keeping classes
10. Lessons in Spanish

Here's why:

I don't want to be pricked incorrectly, (insert your thoughts here), eat food that will make me barf for eons and possibly kill me, drive a car that might not stop, hit the ground and bounce, get infected blood or a rookie at inserting needles (or both), end up with lumpier/disproportionate thighs, have the house on the block whose main design features are "cracking/shifting/doors that won't close", learn I am highly allergic to bees after the first twenty stings, or accidentally tell the border guard "Yes, I am transporting drugs across the border!" when I think I am disclosing Mexican VANILLA.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Some People

I was recently charged with running to the grocery store after 6pm to retrieve bacon. Since Mike had a ticket to the MAVS game, the boys all requested breakfast for dinner.

Normally, this would be totally cool. But, earlier in that same day, I had stuffed my body like it was a sausage casing that had no load limits. The thought of waffles, fried eggs, bacon and fruit just sounded yuck.

So, at my local "natural" grocery store, I laid down a pound of nitrate/nitrite free bacon and a protein bar. Made with honey. And nuts. And chocolate.

Yes, I expect you to think "How in Sam Hill is that any BETTER than the dinner you were preparing for the boys?" It wasn't. It just had a pretty package and said "PROTEIN BAR" and "RAW" and "ALMONDS" and that convinced me it would be a mite bit more nutritious than what I was about to prepare at home.

That bar was like the Sirens that called Odysseus. But, unlike me? He wasn't completely tricked*.

Well, just behind me in line was Mr. Social. I call him that because it seemed that, every aisle I went up or down, I saw him talking to yet another employee or customer. I didn't think much about it, just figured he was friendly. He was always talking to someone, so he didn't say "Boo" to me before we were set up in the same checkout aisle.

Which is when he looked at my purchases and said "Bacon and a protein bar?" with this condescending, holier-than-thou, nutrition-is-ultra-important-to-me tone of voice.

Now, I am super, duper good at comebacks about twenty minutes after the initial insult. But, in the moment, my brain dumps the truth. So, I said "YEAH. My kids wanted breakfast for dinner and it didn't even sound remotely good to me, so I picked up the protein bar for myself."

Did I get a response? No. I got a two-weeks-past-the-due-date-Momma's-about-to-explode-pregnant-pause. And crickets. Pin dropping. Not.another.word.

I looked at the belt to see what Mr. Social/Nutrition was purchasing. And I'm so glad my comeback didn't come right then.

He was purchasing lemonade. Which he told the cashier he wished was cold because he was about to chug the ENTIRE BOTTLE.

Now, we're not talking an 8-ouncer here. We're talking a whopping 32-ounce, organic Santa Cruz lemonade. Calorie count: 400. Sugar count: 100 grams. As in, more than twice a Coke. All carbs.

Oh could I have taken him down on that one. Given him the schpeel about carbs going straight to your gut. How sugar and cancer seem to be friends. How calories mean extra weight. Yes, I could have done that.

But, thankfully, that little weapon in my mouth refused to work in that moment. Thank goodness. And I fumbled through saying something nice to the cashier and blew out the door before I could get any more pseudo-advice via pithy commentary from Mr. Social/Nutrition.

And, honestly? I don't wish that lemonade to go straight to his gut.

I hope it goes straight to his tongue and swells it like the body of a dead rat in the ghettos of some large, stinky city. That way, the next time he has commentary for a desperate Mother trying to placate her kids so her husband can enjoy a night out with the guys, he is rendered utterly speechless.

As for yours truly? Go ahead. Call me the Comeback Kid.

*But, I do have to report, that this thing had a really yummy 3 Musketeers vibe about it. That's not good news for me.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Gone Too Soon

This is dedicated to C.B., an amazing Mother who doesn't realize how much her life has become a witness.

C--God wrote this to you. I simply typed it.

There's that little place in every parent that quietly whispers "Don't take my baby". This mantra starts the moment you realize that the fragile life you are holding is precious beyond words.

There's a selfish desire to stop that baby from moving from the crook of your arm to the tip of your fingers, holding on for dear life, as they take their first steps.

There's a longing to grab them and run back home when you watch them walk through the door of the preschool to embrace their alphabet and learn to write their name and begin that slow, progressive move toward becoming their own person.

There's a desire to have that one last summer never end, that summer before "big school" starts and they aren't by your side for the better portion of the calendar year.

There's a sadness that descends when you realize that puberty is hitting, that the change, in their life and yours, is permanent. The days of ready hugs and kisses are gone and the steady pull away has begun.

There's a recognition that the very things you were dreading and looking forward to, driving, graduation, college, aren't that far away. In fact, they come, one after another, on each others heels, faster than should be allowed.

But for some, there's a day with a diagnosis that changes all that. A day that brings news that starts a fight that seems to pit good against evil, cell against cell.

Instead of living for the next big milestone, you start to live for the day. And you pray that it is a pain-free one.

Instead of waiting for the next school year, you count the days until the next appointment. And pray for good news.

Instead of rejoicing that you can vacation together over holidays, you discover holidays in the every day things. Sometimes it is a vacation from nausea; sometimes a vacation from weakness. Some days aren't dotted with doctor's visits or needles or hair loss. And on those days, you feel like you've been flown to Hawaii and been treated like royalty. Your old reality has taken you away from it all, if even for just a few hours.

Instead of using the hundreds of favorite recipes for your family, you figure out the three that don't make your love sick. And you make them over and over, until you don't think you can look at those dishes ever again. The best days are those where you marvel at the joy on your loved one's face when she rediscovers that strawberries taste the way they used to.

At the end, all that matters is the love. You no longer care that it's Thursday or June or worry when vacation is scheduled or what sounds good to eat. You simply marvel in the love. Your thoughts drift toward those who've meant the most. And you are so, very glad they are there for you.

You respond with smiles, even when your muscles are simply too weak. Your vocal chords manage responses, though you can't keep track of what you said in your last sentence. You live moment by moment, through pain that is unimaginable, and cry into your pillow until you don't have any more tears.

Then you watch as your loved one lets you know that Christ is coming for her. And she breathes a breath that is heartbreaking and therapeutic and life-ending. And then it is over.

It's funny how life sometimes turns out that way. Just when you think you've got it all figured out, you are thrown a curve ball. And, without knowing it, you manage to affect all those who are watching you, by your grace, fortitude and positive attitude.

You become a beacon of light on a cloudy, windy, dark night. Through the turmoil, you end up squarely in God's arms, becoming like a little child being carried, being comforted and told, again and again "You'll make it through this." It's then you realize you've become the parent God made you to be: one who acknowledges that she was His after all.

And, somehow, you let her go. By the grace of God, you do it.

Even when she is gone too soon.

Thursday, June 9, 2011


I have a real love/hate relationship with squirrels. Obviously, I'm concerned enough about them that I tried to figure out how to help my paraplegic friend, but I also know they can be a real pain in the tush.

Such as when they chew holes in things or leave nut-holes all over the yard* or crack open nut shells and don't have the courtesy to deposit them in the trash can, which leaves pointy/sharp objects in the lawn.

So, imagine my interest when I saw two of these little rodents attempting a high-wire act.

Two of the little buggers were perched over the road, way up on the electric wires, right in the center between the poles.

One of the little guys obviously had taken his ADD meds** this morning, because he was calm and focused. Or petrified and nervous to the point of not being able to move. Either way, he was crouched on the line, not moving an inch, facing his compadre in this charade.

The other little guy? Amped up on caffeine or meth. Hard to tell from a distance because I couldn't see if he had pock marks and had prematurely aged or was just spasmodic.

"Crazy Squirrel" was somewhat caught, it appeared, by "Calm Squirrel". See, Crazy didn't want to go the direction that was open and available for travel. He wanted to go the other way, which would be straight over Calm. Who wasn't moving, thank you very much.

I could almost hear Calm saying "You brought me into this situation and you are going to get me out. And, I am facing THAT WAY and that is the way we are going. Because I'm NOT turning around."

Crazy was PACING on the line. He would get about an inch from Calm and turn the other way, go about two feet, and do the same thing. I felt bad for Calm because every two seconds he was getting squirrel butt and tail in his face. But, yet, he was unfazed.

I got to thinking that maybe, just maybe, Crazy wasn't so mad after all. Maybe he was being shocked by the line. Maybe there was something sitting on the pole on the "open" end that was scaring him. Maybe he wasn't Crazy after all.

Then, it got even weirder. I related this to life.

How many times in your marriage have you found yourself being Mr. and Mrs. Crazy/Calm? One of you is going ballistic over a situation and the other is calmly sitting by, waiting for the other to calm down so you can reach your goal?

The most interesting thing is that Crazy and Calm trade places in marriage. Sure, as a general rule, one of you is typically a bit more high-strung. But, if the circumstances change just slightly, you move descriptions without hardly batting an eyelash.

As a Momma, for example, if your child's feelings have been trampled, you might go a little Crazy. Daddy, however, can sit by calmly, knowing the storm will blow over.

But, change the example and Daddy is is in the Crazy seat. If his son has been unfairly judged on the ball field, that will bring up his ire in a flash. Mom, on the other hand, can sit by, sipping her Diet Coke and laughing with her friends.

God knew what he was doing when he decided it takes two to make a baby and two to be parents to him/her. No one person can possibly do the work it takes both Mom and Dad to get the job done. There's either a little too much Crazy or a little too much Calm when there is only one person trying to do the work of two.

Later this morning, when I pass that wire again, I'm going to think of those two squirrels. And I'm going to be extra grateful that God gave me Mike as a partner in parenting. Just like those two squirrels, we are Crazy and Calm.

But, in just the right doses, at the right times, if you ask me.

*Which, from time-to-time, I might or might not have tripped over.

**In case you hadn't noticed, squirrels are the poster children for attention problems in the animal world.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Speaking Spanish

Our Armada has decided that it is going to malfunction and cause us grief this week, so we are going everywhere in the Prius.

Let's just say that the Prius would be perfectly fine for a family of three or four. It worked really well with a toddler and two in car seats. But with three very verbal, broad-shouldered, some long-legged kids in the backseat now? Things can get a little dicey every now and again.

There are the obligatory "He is in my space" issues. If anyone should dare to pass gas, there are gags and sighs and "You are so disgusting" comments. But, the giggling? OH.MY.GOODNESS. There is something about closeness that causes boys to got high-pitched and start to sound like a bunch of girls.

By far and large, it's the giggling that causes Mike and I to lose our ever lovin' minds. See, the giggling leads to whispering which leads to stupid comments which leads to rude comments. And then? Time outs. Compliments of parental keen hearing.

It was during one of those very time outs, for which Nickels and Hooman were paying the piper, that The Babe decided to edumacate us all in Spanish.

The Babe + Spanish = a complete surprise to me. Between Mike and I, we can order a beer, get to the toilet, and say hello and goodbye. Beyond that? We need an interpreter.

So The Babe fires up the counting..."uno, dos, tres"...and then says something for "cuatro" that was completely unintelligible.

Nickels about came unglued. He was DYING to interject the proper Spanish four into this recounting, but his predicament cost him that chance. BUMMER.

The counting continued..."cinco, seis".... And now Hooman was dying to be free of time out because he could see where this was going and he was determined to add his Spanish sense to the conversation before The Babe hit "diez".

But, we didn't get that far, because the next number will be a source of discussion/laughter/story retelling for years on end.

See, when The Babe got to the number seven, he said, with a tongue-rolling gusto only previously heard from the mouth of a drunken Sigma Tau pledge, "SEXY!"

Pandemonium broke out in the car at that moment. Two brothers were all the sudden unable to keep their vows of time out* and were all into correcting mode.

Mike just grabbed my leg and squeezed**, so I immediately looked the other direction to keep myself from making eye contact with him. If we had made eye contact in that moment, it would have only led to gales of laughter and another six-year-old rendition of "SEXY!"

I'm still a little unclear if sexy is the word he's heard when counting has been done in Spanish in his prescence or if he was just being Babe-like and pulling out all the laugh stops, since he did have complete command of the kid stage, considering the time out situation in the car at that moment.

Regardless, we are on high guard in the Nowell house. We've come to realize that there is something about the youngest that makes you simultaneously glad you went for that "extra" kid and something that makes you think "Only through God's grace will this child not kill us both."

No matter what happens, this story has a coveted place in my brain. It's the place in my intermediate-term memory that files all good stories about my boys. It's the place that will be accessed just about twenty minutes before The Babe and his bride-to-be start their rehearsal dinner.

As my Mother used to say: "The chickens are coming home to roost."

Take that, SEXY boy!

*Thou shalt not say a word until Mommy and Daddy have calmed down enough to talk with you sanely. Which, generally, takes anywhere from five to twenty minutes, depending on time of day, severity of the infraction, and whether we are feeling up to parenting.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

No Doubt

On the way to pick the eldest two Nowell boys up from Pine Cove, we got a little education from The Babe.

You see, we were pulling into the first camp to get the Hooman, and the clock read 8:39am. If you know the Nowell clan even remotely, you know that we are chronically late.* Even going solo, it is rare that any individual is on-time to anything.

When you put us in a pack? FORGETABOUTIT.

I was so astonished at our miraculous arrival time that I verbalized we are pulling in a full 21 minutes early. The Babe picked out the one word in the sentence that, apparently, he had never heard.

"Late"? "Running behind"? He has an intimate knowledge of those. Probably could teach Webster a thing or two about the definition of either.

But "early"? He had NO CLUE what that meant. So, he asked. And we explained. And he responded: "We're NEVER early." All we could do is laugh and tell him "You're right!"

Sometimes the greatest observations come out of the mouths of babes.

*Honestly, I have to pat ourselves on the back for this week. This was time number TWO that we made it to our destination ahead of schedule. The first miracle occured even after our sitter was 20 minutes late and we STILL were the first to arrive at my friend's surprise party. BOOYAH!!!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Flowers, Anyone?

Two little old ladies, Dorace & Jackie were sitting on a park bench outside the local town hall where a flower show was in progress.

The short one, Jackie leaned over and said, 'Life is so boring. We never have any fun any more. For $10.00 I'd take my clothes off and streak through that stupid, boring flower show!'

'You're on!' said Dorace, holding up a $10.00 note.

So Jackie slowly fumbled her way out of her clothes and, completely naked, streaked (as fast as an old lady can) through the front door of the flower show.

Waiting outside, her friend soon heard a huge commotion inside the hall, followed by loud applause and shrill whistling.

Finally, the smiling Jackie came through the exit door surrounded by a cheering, clapping crowd.

'What happened?' asked her waiting friend.

'I won $1,000 as 1st prize for 'Best Dried Arrangement... !'

Thursday, June 2, 2011

High Expectations

One of the best reason to get to know God is that you know what you can expect from Him.

Is it possible that the reason you feel unfulfilled in your walk with Him is that you haven't taken the time to get to know Him as a person? You haven't studied His word or sat in the pew on Sunday or taken that little bit of yourself seriously, that tiny, mustard seed sized part, that actually has enough faith to think "He might just exist and He might just love ME?"

Is it possible He is more like a Santa figure that you take requests to, not knowing whether or not He even works in the ways you are asking?

If you have routinely found yourself being disappointed by God, it's probably because you haven't tapped into who He is. When His will and your life collide, miracles can happen. Life moves in ways that are "mysterious". Peace descends in situations where turmoil should reign.

He is the one who has known you since before you were even born. He is the one who has sustained you to even this moment. He is the one who loves you enough NOT to count all your transgressions against you, if only you will take that little, itty-bitty step of faith toward Him.

Is it possible that today is the day that you should try? Open that dusty Bible? Try to figure out who God is and what He has promised and what He has done?

I pray so.

*HUMONGOUS gratitude to Dr. Tony Evans, who inspired this post through one of his on-radio sermons.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Favorite Movies of All Time

Every once in a while I'll have an urge to watch some time-worn movie that we have in a basket under the TV. Ninety percent of those poor movies don't get seen once every five years, so I kind of feel like I owe it to them to pull them out, dust them off, and give them a spin in the DVD player every once in a while.

What I realized, a bit back when I was asked for a list of all my favorite books, is that my taste in movies is equally bizarre. I run the gamut from childish stories to full-blown nail biters. And everything in between.

So, since it is summer, and bedtime hours seem a little more flexible, here are some movies to consider, or reconsider, for your viewing pleasure:

1. The Wizard of Oz. As classic as they get. I dare you to watch it and NOT hum at least one of the songs for the rest of summer.

Since I'm a nerd, I see tons of symbolism in the movie and consider it "90 Minutes in Heaven"* for the youngish-set. If you think through the lessons that are learned, and tie them to Biblical themes, you have a nice start to a brilliant thesis. I cry every time Dorothy realizes "There's no place like home" because I KNOW, in my heart-of-hearts, that she is talking about Heaven.


2. When Harry Met Sally. Timeless, even 22 years since it was originally on the big screen.

And the dialogue: "You can't take it back...It's out there!" and "Yeah, but he was too old to pick them up." and "This stupid, wagon wheel, Roy Rogers, garage sale COFFEE TABLE!" I can only wish to write dialogue like Nora Ephron someday.

3. I am Legend. My brain gets really confused when I say "Will Smith" and "great acting" in the same sentence, but it is true.

I am a HUGE lover of flashbacks and suspense and all things zombie. So, this movie is right up my alley. To this day, I still jump in all the places I am supposed to and cry at the bitter end.

This is a story of redemption of mankind in the face of something that started so wonderfully but turned bitterly wrong.

4. Momento. What's not to love about a man whose short-term memory has been wiped out and who has to write on his body to remember, day-to-day, the pieces of his shattered life so he can figure out what happened to him.

Who's the good guy? What's this woman really doing? How did I end up here? Suspense and intrigue at every corner. Oh, and Guy Pierce. Need I say more???

5. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. I think this is mention number two for this movie in this here blog, so sit up and pay attention.

You need to be in the right frame of mind to watch this since the subject manner is a concentration camp. The twist on the theme is that this looks at the camp from the standpoint of the family of one of the generals working for Hitler's regime.

If you are into tales that speak to your heart and remind you that human beings can do some downright cruel things to one another and that you never know when the worst might happen, this is your show.

This was the last movie Mom and I ever saw together. Just like at the showing of Schindler's List, the audience didn't get up after it was over. We just sat there, quietly wiping our tears. Those who could talk did so through whispers, so as to leave the hush that spread over the audience intact. We were no exception.

This is a beautiful movie, both in scenery and costume. And, if as a Mother, you are not brought to your knees by Vera Farmiga's performance, you don't have a pulse AND you MIGHT be a zombie. Just sayin'.....

There are so, so many, but these are a few that jumped into my mind today.

If you care to comment and let the rest of us know some other "summer worthy" movies to consider, please do!

Happy Viewing!

*A must read. Thanks to my wonderful friend, KV, for bringing it to Mom's funeral as a gift--one of the most thoughtful things EVER.