May 31, 2008

Motley Crew

5/31/2008 — cori
Just in case you were wondering, Dress Up For Dinner Night is still alive and well. Last night was no exception. Since my parents were in town visiting, they knew to expect our shenanigans. I think they worried about their costume from the moment they arrived almost two weeks ago. But they needn't fear, they donned their costumes with pride and helped make last night's escapade that much more fun. Last night's theme was toys...however, I'm afraid we all chose character toys (except Chuck). Words are no longer necessary. I believe the pictures speak loud enough.


Grandpa - aka: Darth Vader (in summer attire - note: Grandpa did all his own artwork...impressive)







Grandma - aka: Fancy Nancy (from the self titled book - I'm thinking Grandma looks a little too comfortable with all the bling)







Chuck - aka: a Rubik's Cube (or as we lovingly referred to him as: the blockhead)








Myself - aka: a pirate action figure (supposedly I'm a fictitious character from the movie "Pirates of the Caribbean" which I've never seen - I'm a little scared by how closely I resemble Johnny Depp)





Gavin - aka: A Samurai warrior (notice the aptly placed pony tail - a true sign of such a menacing warrior)





Bennett - aka: a vampire (not that we have any toy vampires lying around the house but....this was his third costume of choice; he also considered a soccer ball and a ninja but eventually settled on a vampire)






Chloe - aka: Padme (from Star Wars - obviously, she puts a lot of effort and importance in the face paint)




May 14, 2008

The Bird

5/14/2008 — cori
We are the proud owners of a barn swallow nest (including the momma, pappa and baby birds) which rests serenely on our front porch up in the top corner of an archway. They chose to make our home their home last year....and we couldn't be more thrilled. We learned so much from watching them. And the fun thing is, they return to the same nest year after year.

So when our little bird family arrived this spring, we were filled with anticipation of how many eggs there might be and excited to watch the mommy and daddy birds feeding the baby chicks. I never imagined this would be a science experiment gone bad.

Today, as I was walking back inside through the front porch, I happened to look down and notice the huge white mess that is the side effect of lodging birds throughout the spring. I was going to remind the kids to spray off the porch when I noticed a slightly larger mass in the middle of the mess. I gasped. Upon hearing such a noise from their mother, the kids (as well as the neighbor kids) all ran in my direction.

To my horror, there lay a tiny, helpless chick on the ground - evidently pushed out by it's nest mates. The kids were full of questions and being the n0n-biologist that I am, I had very few answers. Everyone had some sort of suggestion, "Let's put it back in the nest....Let's make a nest for it and nurse it until it grows strong and can fly...Let's examine it."

What was I to do? It appeared to be dead, but upon closer examination by all 5 children, they noticed the slightest bit of movement and all declared together, "It's alive!" and jointly turned their heads to me to find out what wisdom I was going to dole out.

How does one nicely say, "this adorable, little, fuzzy, blind creature was most likely pushed out of his cozy and perhaps slightly too small nest by his greedy, hungry nest-mates while reaching for food and the mommy and daddy bird will do nothing at all to save the poor chick and chalk it up as a loss and one less mouth to feed - so goes the cycle of life. And we can do nothing about it. If we interfere, the mommy and daddy will abandon the rest of the chicks too."

I felt like Scrooge. I felt like I was teaching them the cruel, cold, hard facts of life before they were able to wrap their little minds around this awful concept. My advice...leave it be, this was just the cycle of life. The collective sigh could be heard through-out the neighborhood.

Then I got bombarded with the "whys". "Why can't we put him back in his nest? Why can't we feed it and watch it grow? Why did he try to fly out? Why won't the mommy bird come take care of it? Why isn't there anything we can do?" I wasn't prepared to teach these lessons today.

Thankfully, Gavin came up with the most compassionate solution, "Let's bury it" he said. Why didn't I think of that? Then everyone moved into action. We found a nice burial site out in the back yard. Some dug with shovels, others with their hands. Some helped me find something to pick it up with (which totally grossed me out!) and other's were thinking of cleanliness and safety and got the hose to wash off the porch with. We were an efficient and compassionate burial team.

We gave our regards to the poor bird, talked some more about the cycle of life, especially in the wild and felt better that the poor thing could 'decompose properly under the dirt' (Gavin's terminology - of course he was only thinking of practicality) and not be left as food for some wild animal (like we have any in our little suburban neighborhood).

This begs one question...is one ever ready to bury a bird? Sometimes you just gotta do what you gotta do, whether it's in your job description or not.

Nature is a great teacher. We can learn much by watching, listening and respecting it.

May 10, 2008

Happy Mother's Day

5/10/2008 — cori
Hi. This is actually Chuck, Cori's husband. She's asleep right now and doesn't know I'm messing with her blog. This will be the first, and hopefully only, story written on Mommy Stories by the Daddy.

If you're reading this, you've probably enjoyed the hundreds of stories told here by Cori. Most of you have probably never met her. A few of you know Cori, but I wish you could know her like I do. In this space, she writes stories of her own inadequateness, foibles and failures all the while making us laugh with her signature self-deprecating style.

While all the stories are true, no one is harder on Cori than herself. That's one of the things I love about her. Her humility, flexibility and teachability when it comes to being a Mommy is to be admired.

Ever since I've know Cori, she has wanted to be a Mommy. I distinctly remember her telling me once long ago when we were in junior high that when she grew up she wanted to get married and be a mommy. I remember thinking, "yeah, you'd be a good mom". Wow, was that an understatement! Cori is a great mommy!

Some people were born to be engineers, pilots or veterinarians. Well, Cori was born to be a mommy. I will never forget the first few days after we brought our oldest son home from the hospital after he was born. I felt completely clueless, but it was like she had been a mommy for years. I remember wondering, "how does she know all this stuff?!" She's a natural, plain and simple.

She effortlessly balances all the roles of "motherhood". Encourager, nurturer, teacher, nurse, mediator, short order cook, house maid, intercessor, playmate and referee. All of those just about every day. She does get tired and she does get frustrated sometimes. But there's nothing at all she'd rather be doing. I admire her so much. I wish I could be more like her.

I tell her all the time that she is the perfect mom. The perfect mommy for our kids. She is the exact mommy that they need. I believe God gives us children as a gift and that we have a tremendous responsibility to love them, teach them, protect them, provide for them and help them become better than ourselves. Cori does just that everyday and I think - no, I know - she is doing an outstanding job.

Let me tell you why I think she's the best mom this side of everyone. I can sum it up in one quality that sometimes still boggles my mind: sacrificial love.

She always, and I mean ALWAYS puts the needs of our kids above her own needs, even if that means she is inconvenienced or is put into a situation less comfortable for her. The consistency she shows when it comes to this is amazing. She has taught me so much since she became a mommy and I am a better dad and a better person for having the privilege of serving next to her for the past 9 years.

And I just wanted to thank her, publicly, for all of her hard work, all of the energy and tears she has spent over the years on being the best mommy she could be - not to get praise or thanks, but to better our kids. Everything she does is for them. I am extremely thankful for the model of love and vigilance and service that she shows our children and I love her more than she'll ever know.

Now, she will deny all this and claim I am making it all up and that I am just biased, so of course I would think good things about her. Don't listen to her. Remember, she is her own worst critic, so take any of her self-loathing with a grain of salt. I will probably spend most of the day tomorrow trying to make sure she doesn't delete this post. :)

Happy Mother's Day!
/cm

May 4, 2008

First Things First

5/04/2008 — cori
I've been in a funk lately. Overwhelmed with many, many things. I found myself losing the joy in life, the joy in my children, the joy that used to come in just waking up to a brand, new day. I've let that joy be replaced with anxious thoughts, doubt, self-loathing, questions too numerous to expound on, and fear.

It takes me a while to figure it out since I'm not very good at seeing the forest from the trees...but it finally dawned on me: No wonder you're so overwhelmed, Cori, you stopped trusting God and started trusting in your own strength. You should be worried! You're not strong enough to carry these burdens. In other words...I lost my focus. It was clearly on me. I hate it when I do that. Somebody slap me in the face - please!

A few weeks ago, right at the height of all my fears, we took a field trip to a nursing home. I didn't want to go. I wanted to sit and sulk and continue to justify my stupidity and my anxieties. But God had different plans for that day. It was to be the day He would gently start shifting my focus back to Him in the most subtle, beautiful of ways.

We had brought flowers to pass out at the nursing home and were going door to door talking with each resident. It was very hard. I have a huge heart for the elderly and that lump in my throat that has been my constant companion of late, was not helping the situation. I was grieving over these poor people left to live out the last of their days in boredom, loneliness and isolation. My heart hurt for them and it was all I could do to talk and choke back my tears. That is, until we met Lucille.

Lucille's room was the last one on the hall. The kids and I walk in to give her the flowers and she is just so kind and gracious and sharp as a tack. All she wanted to do was talk, ask us questions, and tell us about her life. We (me more than the kids) were loving every minute of it. Listening to her life was like reading a history book. She told me how she raised 10 kids on a farm not far from here, that she now has 22 grandkids, 20+ great grandkids and 2 great-great grandchildren. The question I asked next popped into my head and out of my mouth before I had time to think about it.

"What parenting advice could you give to me, Miss Lucille?" I needed to know. Here she was happy and content despite her circumstances. A mother of 10 certainly must have plenty of advice to pass along. If she didn't seemed the least bit overwhelmed with 10, why should I fret about 3? This is the wisdom she gave me, "First things first, Honey."

My eyes teared up, I got the chills and I swallowed real hard to push that lump back down my throat so I could thank her from the bottom of my heart without crying. My spirit instantly knew what she meant...however, it took a while to reach my brain.

Why do I always try to make things more difficult than they really are? Life, parenting, marriage, (insert any topic) really is very simple...all you have to do is put first things first. To me that means doing all I do out of love for those I love and for God. I'm putting myself first when I spend all my time obsessing over every worry, fear and decision - my mind is solely on me and I have been totally neutralized. I'm no good to anyone around me because my eyes are on me and my problems - I can't even see anyone else's needs (especially my chilrens) Put love first and the everything else just seems to work itself out. Love eliminates fear, worry, doubt, and conflict. I just have to learn to say to myself, "If I make a mistake, so be it...I'll learn from it and go on. But right now, I'm going to make the best decision for this situation and trust God and then rest in that peace." I can no longer continue to live second guessing every choice I make, wondering if I'm doing this or that right or wrong, hating myself when I mess up. That is putting me first. I want to put God first, my family first, others first.

Thank you Lucille!

I have a feeling this is not the last time I will be learning this exact same lesson.

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