Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Our Mis-Matched Stockings and other Royal Christmas Traditions

Traditions make me happy. I love knowing what to expect and anticipating it. Here are some Christmas traditions that I hope and pray my girls (and Brian) never get tired of at Christmas time:

Making gingerbread men cookies and spending a couple of hours “painting” them—this is Brian’s Gran’s recipe and he just shook his head when I bought orange zest the 1st time we made them—it requires zesting real oranges—not buying the pre-zested stuff

Having mis-matched stockings hanging over our fireplace—everyone has one that fits his/her personality (except Hope who chose an ugly one from the old pile this year instead of her cute one. You can't see it very well, but Brian's is camo.

All the grandkids on my side of the family having coordinating clothes for Christmas Eve. This is something my stepmom has done for them for Christmas and Easter their entire lives.

…Watching the light show at our local fire station (this year they even have Party Rock Anthem playing with flashing Christmas lights)—tried to take a video of this last year, but it was bad, so you’ll have to just trust me.

My brown-haired angel on top of my tree (not sure why this one is on the list, but it REALLY makes me happy)

Giving the girls matching Christmas jammies to wear on Christmas eve (part of this is because I have a few pics of me in some embarrassing things on Christmas morning)—I told Hope today that I was still gonna buy them matching jammies when they were in their 30’s—amazingly, she didn’t seem to mind.

Taking the yearly “pretend you really love your sister” picture of my girls in their matching jammies. This is always one of my favorites—you can’t tell they were just yelling at each other before it was taken--they really do look like they love each other.

Wearing my sparkly red shirt on Christmas morning. I bought this for a party in my pre-kids life and the girls were always begging me to wear it, so a friend of mine suggested I do it on Christmas morning and I have for the past several years. It's itchy and leaves glitter everywhere, but the girls love it.

And my favorite of all--waking up in our own house every Christmas morning. This is something Brian and I agreed upon even before we had kids and it makes me happy (we also agreed to only go to one house per day on the holidays—no running around from one family to the other).

What things do you hope you will always do at your house?

Dear Santa (from Caroline 12/2011)

Dear Santa,

How can the raindare (reindeer) eat ice cream. Can the raindare eat candy. How big is your stumik (stomach). When you leave to dliver presints, Do the rain dear gofe(goof) around and push you over. Do rain dear whar (wear) shows (shoes) when it is varey cold. Is ther rain dear babys. Do they go into the place ware you make toys.

P.S. What do rain dear eat.


Don''t Ask--it's Safer that Way

I’ve said it before and I’m sure I’ll say it again…It’s never dull at the Royal house.

The girls came running through the living room with sleeping bags, dressed like this to play outside this afternoon (why, yes, she is wearing normal clothes, a hat, a bathrobe and house shoes--and in case you couldn't tell, she is carrying a sword).

This was one of those times I didn’t even ask what they were doing (but I did hear them making very loud monkey noises—sorry, neighbors!)

Monday, December 19, 2011

My Woe-Is-Me Rant

Let me just warn you now, this post is going to be a rant. I need an outlet and since this is my blog, I’m choosing to “scream” through my writing.

I know I am blessed. I really do. I don’t take much for granted. I am thankful every day I get in my car and can drive it (esp. after having to walk to the girls’ school the past few times because Brian’s truck is not working right and he’s had to use my car). I am grateful that I have food in my pantry—even when I have to cook it and it’s not exciting. I am thrilled with my new-to-me washer and dryer that a friend gave us—eliminating my need to head to the Laundromat once a week.

But tonight, I am weary. Just when I think we are heading back up, something else happens. Our dishwasher died. Or at least we think it did. It dumped TONS of water all over our floor (which required the use of @10 towels to sop it all up—but, hey—I have a washer to wash them in, right?).

It’s been one of those weeks where we have a ton of dirty dishes—I can’t catch up. I emptied a load this afternoon, started another (the one that caused the breakdown) and still had enough sitting on the counter for another load.

I know I should be grateful that I have a roof over my head and dishes to eat out of and a kitchen to call “mine.” But for this moment, I want to just scream and ask why it is we can never catch a break???? We both work extremely hard. We both volunteer time to other things. We both try to create a loving and fun environment for our girls. We both work on being good friends to those around us. So why, when we are almost caught up after being behind for over a year, does this have to happen?

Why us? Is our plate not full enough?

Ok, I’m done with my dramatics. But I am gonna go and read the book of Job—maybe I’ll learn something.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Burnt Hair/New growth

Almost 2 weeks ago, I had an “incident” with our grill. I’ll save the telling of what happened for another post when I need a good laugh, but the short story is that a lot of my hair was singed (aka—burnt off).

After the initial dread of looking in a mirror in case my eyebrows were gone, I laughed and moved on. But my girls were scared. I looked like a lion with all the fuzz around my head. And part of me was scared to start pulling out the burnt pieces for fear that it would leave big holes, but I had to be brave for them, right?

So I started pulling. And worse than seeing all the stuff falling, was the smell. After washing it 6 times and conditioning it twice, I still smelled it. And was scared to get too close to people for a couple of days in case they could smell it.

And folks, there is NOTHING worse than the smell of burnt hair.

Skip ahead to today—almost 2 weeks later. The hair is starting to grow back. I have all of this baby hair at my scalp that is dark. And it is sticking straight out and is able to be hid right now, but I’m not sure how much longer it will be before it pokes out for all to see.

Sometimes, I’m happy with things as they are and don’t want to make any changes. Or see the need for any. And it takes something dramatic for me to change—usually not something I would have planned or expected—sometimes it’s something really hard (like having my hair burnt).

But, as the new hair grows—thicker and a better texture—the beauty of it pushes through the old, and you don’t see the dry, split ends as clearly as you did before.

And none of it was my doing. Not the burning, not the growth. My only job is to style it in a way that uses it effectively.

Hmmm…kind of makes sense to me in an oddly, spiritual way.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Our Real Tree

For the first time in 3 years, we bought a Christmas tree. This makes me really happy. We have been offered a couple of different artificial trees as our friends and family members have gotten new ones, but I have held out for the real thing.

I’m not sure why I insist on a real tree every year. They are messy. And the branches often fall, leaving gaping holes. And, they die. And it’s harder to hang those heavy ornaments on.

But, the smell makes up for all of that. There’s something about walking into a house with the pine smell assaulting you as you go through the door that makes me almost giddy.

My tree will never be photographed for a magazine. In most people’s opinion, it’s probably pretty lame. For one thing, the ornaments don’t all match. It’s pretty hodge-podge with things that Brian’s Gran made, things the girls have made, and our eclectic collection of angels, soccer players, ballerinas and country-themed ornaments.

For another, I don’t use white lights on it—it’s full of color. I know, the white is so much classier (and I do use them in my garland over my mantle), but there’s just something about the colored lights on my tree that fits the Royal family.

I love looking at beautifully-decorated trees. But I love ours, too. It’s a reminder to me that beauty comes in many different forms. And some of the most beautiful things are those things that are authentic, exposing their flaws for all to see, but which stand tall anyway.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

What's Weird?

So, earlier, I had this great thought for a facebook post. I was gonna say, reason #137 why my kids are weird and name something Caroline did.

The problem is, I can’t remember what she did.

When I asked her what she had done that was strange this afternoon, she shrugged her shoulders. Hope piped in and said she probably kissed or licked something. Sad to say, that’s not weird-worthy in our house. Then Hope’s opinion was that Caroline always does weird stuff.

And she’s right.

So, either I’m just old and forgetful or the strange things my girls do are becoming more and more “normal” to me.

Who knows?

How to Buy a Christmas Tree

• Take a Brian Royal with you. He’s the one who pulls out all the trees, cuts the twine, shakes them out and holds them up for everybody to critique.

• Always choose the one in the very back—you know the one you have to move 7 others to get to—it’s always the best

• Take your kids with you—if you can brainwash them into thinking the kind of tree you like is the best, it helps when your hubby disagrees

• Make your hubby use his birthday Home Depot gift cards so that a) you don’t have to spend any money and b) you don’t feel guilty for spending any money

• Again, take a Brian Royal with you. He’s really handy when it comes to putting the tree on top of the car and tying it down (he even brings his own tie-down things that cinch). He’s also great at standing with the employee, wrapping up the tree after you’ve decided on it, while the rest of the family goes to sit in the nice, warm car (not to mention how great it is to have a husband who does his own trunk-cutting when you get home so that it fits perfectly).

I’m thinking I really owe my hubby right about now…

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Book Club

Book club rocks! Seriously, it’s one of those things that I never used to be able to understand. Why would people want to sit around and talk about a book? Especially if it’s just a fiction book that has no real purpose but entertainment.

But, I was fortunate enough to suggest to a friend that she host a book club—and being the great friend she is, she agreed! In fact, she leads the discussion, looks up the questions and even has a list of books for us to choose from for the next book club meeting. Everyone needs a friend like that, huh?

I’ve always heard that moms have to take care of themselves before they can take care of others. And I’ve always laughed. I mean, when is that supposed to occur? It’s not like you can just leave your kids unsupervised while you go across town to chat with friends about books—especially when you don’t have time to even open them or when you get interrupted 10 times before you’ve finished the first chapter.

But, I’m coming to see the value in that statement…to an extent.

I come home from book club refreshed—even if it was a fluff book or a dark book (not that we’ve read many dark ones, but we’ve read some weird ones). Even though it’s after 10pm when I walk through my door, I feel ready to re-engage with life.

What is your favorite book? Are you in a book club? If so, what book did you read that had the best discussion?

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Oh, J-Lo

Since Extreme Home Makeover no longer airs on Sunday nights, I’m at a loss with what to watch. If Brian has his way, Pickers or Hog Hunters or some other crazy show is on the TV (which my girls also love).

Last week, Brian was not home and I had control of the remote. As I was flipping around the channels, I saw that the AMAs were on, so Caroline and I watched. And then Hope came home and watched, too.

First of all, let me just say I’m not going to do a post about the loud music that doesn’t make sense to me. I don’t mind most music—I even sing along (although I don’t carry a tune well and usually get the words wrong). Plus, there are many artists that I really like to see—don’t really care about their acceptance speeches (everybody thanks God and their parents), but love to watch them perform or interact with others as they host. Even if I’ve never heard of them before (like Pitbull—I know, I know—he’s probably really famous and I’ve been under a rock), I’m open to new tunes.

Before Hope got home, Caroline and I were watching Jennifer Lopez perform her first song. My heart just dropped, y’all. I know she’s had a tough year—and I don’t read all the trash about why she got divorced—that’s her personal business. But, when she started dancing and her costume got skimpier and skimpier, my sweet 7 year old asked me, “Mommy, isn’t that inappropriate?” As much as I wanted to change the channel, I didn’t. We discussed how some people make choices that are not necessarily the wise ones (all the while in my head, I was thinking that J-Lo probably thinks she IS making the wise choice—she looks GREAT after having twins and is one of the most beautiful women in the world).

Then Hope came home and I found out she had been watching it at her friend’s house. And my heart sank even more. I wish I had been sitting beside her as she was watching to see what she thought about it (especially since I could’ve added in some remarks about why we don’t dance like that with boys). We talked about how I hoped J-Lo knew God, but how she wasn’t showing the world she does by the way she presented herself. This was a tricky conversation. My job is not to judge or condemn others—or teach my daughters to do that. But my job is to help equip them to make wise choices and to know the difference between appropriate and not appropriate.

We did have a good conversation and I’m glad that I let my girls be exposed to music that’s not always appropriate. They know when we need to change the radio station and more importantly, WHY we need to change it. I would rather navigate these conversations when they are under my roof than when they are in a room full of teenagers or at a college party--and there are no other trusted adults around. Even though they are hard. And part of my heart breaks.

And afterward, I found myself not only praying for God to protect my little girls’ hearts, but I prayed the same for J-Lo’s kiddos. I hope that when they are 7 years old, they will have a positive role model in their life—who will help them to know the difference between appropriate and not appropriate. I pray that it’s J-Lo herself.

And I prayed for all the other girls’ who look up to Jennifer Lopez and didn't see anything wrong with her moves or clothing—that their eyes would be open to right and wrong and that they would have someone in their life to walk through those decisions with them.

Things we Only do at Granny's Farm

…Sit on the floor heaters to get warm
…Make our beds
…Draw the drapes every morning and evening
…Make doll houses out of blocks and legos (using “Indiana Jones” as the dad)
…Wash pans by hand
…Enter her house and Nana Barbara’s by the back door (I can count on 1 hand the number of times I’ve gone through their front doors)
…Have my girls beg to take a bath together in Granny’s big ol’ tub
…Drive a tractor (and have all the cousins take turns pulling each other in the wagon behind the tractor)
…Cart salad dressing and dessert from house to house
…Have as many dogs as families in the yard at any given time
…Roast hot dogs over a brush fire
…Shop at The Country Boy (where they still bag and carry out your groceries!)
…Play on a metal swing set that’s 20 years old
…Sneak over to the thermostat and turn the heat down when Granny sets it to 80
…Run across the tops of hay bales
…Leave my shoes on the back porch when I come in the house

And my favorite:
…Allow my girls to run and play with their cousins unsupervised

Granny is 93 now and I don’t know how many more times we will have with her at the farm. I try not to think of what we will do at Christmas and during the summer when she is gone. For now, we’re just gonna enjoy our time with her and live it up there as much as possible.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Nothing to Eat?

Last night, I was patting myself on the back. I was so proud of what Lovepacs had accomplished. To feed 46 kiddos for 9 days is AH-MAZING!!! And I was so excited about all that each box had in it.

Then I went to my pantry to figure out what we were going to eat for the next few days before we left town. And I was frustrated. I had lots of veggies, some bread, some frozen things, but no “meals.”

About that time, it dawned on me that I had way more in my pantry than we had put in any Lovepac. In fact, I had many of the same items, but way more. Instead of only 2 cans of soup, I had 4. I had 3 kinds of cereal instead of the one bag we put in each box. Not to mention all the fruit I had and the frozen pizzas and chicken in the freezer. Oh, and I can’t forget about the roast in the fridge, waiting to be made into stew.

I have to say I was humbled. Why were canned goods okay for other families, but not my own? Why did I think I needed to go to the grocery store for 3 days when I had 4 times as much as we gave a kid for 9 days?

I don’t say this to wallow in my guilt and convince myself that I should feel bad for the blessings in my pantry. I say it to remind myself of my blessings. Instead of looking at what I don’t have, I was hit by the picture of what I DO have—right in front of me.

Lovepacs are awesome and I am so thankful to be a part of the team creating them. But I think the next time I pack a box or donate a food item, I will really look at that box and pray for the kiddo getting it.

And I hope I will pray for God to continually humble me into not believing I deserve more than that sweet child.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Feeding the 5000--or just 40

Have you ever wondered what it was like to live when Jesus was on the earth? I have. I love to imagine myself as one of his disciples (I’m sure I would have understood so much more than them—ha!). Or as the widow who gave her mites. Or as the innkeeper or good Samaritan. Or as a bystander when he was teaching.

One of my favorite stories is when he took 5 loaves and 2 fishes and turned it into enough food to feed 5000 and still have a basket-full left for each disciple. Out of all of those people, do you think only one boy brought his lunch? And even better, that he was willing to share it? Most boys I know might have remembered to bring their lunch, but I can't imagine them being willing to share it with friends, let alone strangers.

But the one person who is not talked about in the story that fascinates me the most, is the boy’s mom. Most likely—even back then—his mama made him that lunch. I wonder if she put a note in it with a smiley face? Or packed a napkin folded just so? Do you think she packed enough for him to share with a friend? She had no idea that in her effort to feed her child, she would be a part of a huge miracle.

That out of her taking care of one that she knew, Jesus would take care of thousands.

I kinda feel like that mom right now. I pack my kiddos lunches with extra stuff. I know they aren’t supposed to share food, but there’s a part of me that hopes they will be able to one day and I want to be ready. See, my kids attend a Title 1 school. That means that more than 30% of the kids at our school are on the free/reduced lunch program. Breakfast and lunch are sometimes the only meals those kiddos get.

I posted about this last year. And I told some people about the needs, but nothing happened. I wanted it to, but didn’t know what to do to make it start moving--our family was barely making ends meet, so I was not in a position to help anyone else out financially. So I sat back and hoped the urge to do something would go away. But it didn't.

That same tugging came again this year. And I hesitated. Did I really want to “bug” people with my kids’ needy school again? Everybody’s probably already into their own thing, right?

But I called the counselor anyway. And I found out that she was sending backpacks of food home for 6 kids every weekend. So I sent an email. Just one email to a few people.

BUT GOD, in His infinite wisdom, saw that the email went to the right people and they responded in a HUGE way. I was able to make a call back to the counselor and let her know that we could cover those 6 kiddos for Thanksgiving and Christmas break so that they would have meals each day that they were not receiving them from the school.

But it grew. Instead of just feeding 6, it became enough to feed 40 (with the numbers at my girls' school rising to 8).

So, I feel a little like that boy’s mom. Except that I didn’t even make a lunch. And I didn't organize the distribution. And I didn't really spread the word beyond the first few I emailed. But, like her, I had no clue what God could do with a simple request.

Not sure what the point to this post is except to say that God blesses obedience. Even when we don’t see why He is calling us to do something, if He asks, we should do. He can take 5 loaves and 2 fishes (or one simple ask of a few friends) and turn it into enough to feed 5000 (or 40).

As my favorite pastor says, “The task is ours. The results are His.”

Monday, November 14, 2011

Check Yes or No

Yesterday, at church, Caroline had the opportunity to make Thanksgiving cards. I got a funny one that said:

"thank you for giving me food and a bed and all of thas the stuf! thank you!"

Guess all my talks about how blessed we are to be able to eat and sleep in a bed (and not the floor) have paid off.

I had forgotten that she also made one for her sister. Here’s what it said:

Fome: Caroline
To: Hope
Send back

Dear hope can you stop deing men (translate: being mean) to me Just for 5 days. Yes no

Complete with a pumpkin and 2 crosses.

Oh, to be 7 again…

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


…Except for a live version at work, I have never played Angry Birds
…I don’t usually know the words to songs, so I sing the one line I know over and over again
…I sometimes peek through the crack of the door when my hubby is getting into the shower
…I argue more with my kids than I build them up
…I always leave extra brownie batter in the bowl so I can eat it
…I have lots of games on my phone that I’ve downloaded for my girls, but they never get to play because I’m too busy playing them
…I tore a tag off a pillow yesterday
…My girls know most of the words to Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire”
…I often wear dirty jeans
…I wish our frog would go ahead and die already
…My 9 year old has a better fashion sense than me
…As much as I say I don’t, I secretly like making lunches for Brian and the girls
…I wish my phone rang more often than it does with people just wanting to chat
…I would like to be “carded” again
…The thought of my daughters dating sends me into an anxiety attack
…I REALLY like to win
…I don’t tell the people I love that I love them as much as I should
…I would eat a smore every night if I could
…Just the thought of a mango martini makes me giddy
…I wonder if my 24 blog followers get bored by my posts
…I get in my jammies as soon as I come home from work most nights (even if it’s at 4pm)

Saturday, November 5, 2011

How to Steal your Kids Halloween Candy without them Knowing

There are many things I thought I would learn as a parent. Figuring out how to trick my kids was not one of those things. But, the reality is, sometimes it’s us against them—especially when it comes to really important things like Halloween candy.

Here are my tips on how to eat your kids Halloween candy without them ever having a clue that you did it.

• Offer to hold their bag in between houses (this doesn’t work as well now that they are older—those of you with little kids, take advantage of this now)

• Make them leave their candy on the table when they get home (if they take it into their room, you will never find it until next Halloween and it will not look like something you do not want to eat at that point)

• Take their candy out of their bags and put it into a clear, plastic bag (I use Target’s version of Ziploc, but feel free to use what you have)—be sure to keep their empty wrappers in there, too.

• Always write their name on the bag—this isn’t a tip on how to steal it, this is just self-preservation. Somehow, they KNOW the difference between their candy and their sisters

• Place the bags side by side at all times—it always looks like more and kinda blurries the lines of what’s really in there

• After they are in bed, take inventory of what is there—see what they have more than one of. If there is only one Snickers, no matter how bad you want it, don’t take it--you will get caught!

• You can’t get greedy; you have to control how much you take. Kids have a 6th sense about these things and will notice if you take several pieces.

• Do not eat a piece before you kiss them—they will smell it on your
breath—even Smarties have a distinctive smell to a 7 year old

• Put the candy up on top of the refrigerator after a day—out of sight, out of mind. They will remember it is there, but they won’t be as intent on making sure they have the same amount that they did the last time they saw the bag

• Ask them for a piece—this always throws them off—if you’re asking for one, they won’t suspect you of stealing it when they aren’t looking

Whoever coined the phrase “like taking candy from a baby” never had kids. I guess I should feel guilty about this—especially when I have kids this cute

But there’s a tootsie roll calling my name that’s overriding the guilt right now…

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Things I say Everyday (or at least it FEELS like everyday)

• Please don’t kick the ball in the house
• You’re too loud
• I love you
• Watch your tone
• Have you brushed your teeth yet?
• Please go brush your teeth
• Your shoes do not belong in the living room; please put them in your pockets (not literal pockets--this is a thing hanging on her closet door with lots of spaces for shoes--but that is usually empty except for the pair of shoes she doesn't like and the ones that are too small/big)
• If you would have put your shoes in your pockets, you wouldn’t be looking for them right now
• I don’t want to pick out your clothes—you don’t like what I choose
• Have a good day
• Where’s the remote?
• Can someone please feed the dogs?
• It doesn’t matter who showered 1st yesterday, I’m asking you to get in there now
• Please finish up—others need some hot water, too
• Please rinse your plate
• Volume control, please!
• We are leaving in 10 minutes
• What do you mean you’re not ready to go? I told you we were leaving in 10 miunutes
• Please be kind to your sister
• Do your best
• I’m sorry you don’t like it, this is what we are eating for dinner
• No, we are not eating out
What’s on yours?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


Sad. Burdened. Confusion. Love. Frustrated. Helplessness. Overwhelmed. Haunted.

These are all feelings I have had when I think of the poor. When I stop my “Woe is me” attitude and look around me to see those who are less fortunate, I find myself in a state of panic. The kind of panic that keeps your hands and feet from moving, but your brain is spinning.

I am one person. One person who is too busy. Too busy with my own family. Too busy with work. Too busy with my own interests. And to top it off, too busy taking care of stuff that really doesn’t need me to take care of it.

But, I’m reading a book. It’s called One.Life: Jesus Calls, We Follow by Scot McKnight. And, for the 1st time, I finally feel a focus. I’m not even halfway through and it’s taking me @ a week to read each chapter. Let me re-phrase. I read a chapter and then marinate on it for a week before I feel like I can take on more. It makes me think. It doesn’t let me just gloss over the words on the page and move on.

The premise is that we, as Christians, are doing lots of things, but not necessarily the things that Jesus came to do. I’ve read all of the Gospels. But I’m starting to read them again, with the thought in mind of “What did Jesus mean when He said, ‘Follow me?” I’m amazed. And I’m not sure why I am. I know He came to “seek and save the lost.” But in Luke 4:16-21, it clearly shows us there was more to it than just dying for our sins. As if that wasn’t enough.

I’ve always thought it was. I mean, just the fact that He gave up heaven to come and be abused by man so that I can be with Him for eternity is enough in my finite mind. But that wasn’t the only reason He came. I could go on and on here, but I’ll stop—Scot says it so much better in his book.

I’ve said it before, but it haunts me when I look at the kids at my daughters’ school. There are so many who are living at the poverty level. Truly poor. It’s hard. I try to keep busy when I enter the school so that it doesn’t assault me with the helplessness of “I’m one person—what can I do???” I’m not even a very nice person and many of those kiddos drive me crazy.

But these are who Jesus came to free. These are who Jesus came to proclaim good news to. If I’m to truly follow Him, what does that mean for me? Is he calling me to my neighborhood instead of the orphans in Rwanda? Or is He calling me to both?

I’m still not sure what this means. What I know is that He has put something inside of me that tries to get out every few years or so. Something that I ignore with the reality of my own circumstances. Something that moves me for a time, but eventually settles back down.

And I don’t want that to be the case anymore.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Royal Traditions

Every family has their traditions. I’ve said it before, but I L-O-V-E traditions. I’m a creature of habit and I have this picture perfect idea of my girls sitting with their own kiddos talking about what a great childhood they had and how their mom created such fun, intentional traditions for them.

Then I wake up from that dream and come back to the reality that is my life.

My girls are not as big on traditions as I am. While I think it’s cool to have pancakes every Saturday morning, they prefer to run out and get donuts every so often. While I want to have the “What was the best/worst part of your day?” discussion every night at dinner, they “just don’t feel like talking about it right now!”

We have had one tradition that has stuck with us. Most Sunday nights, we eat our dinner in front of the TV. and watch Extreme Makeover Home Edition. Often, we have to watch America’s Funniest Home Videos (which I really just plain despise) since it’s on right before.

The girls have always loved this. They will take showers early, help clean the kitchen, make us pause it so they can run to the bathroom, etc.—all so they can watch it.

Last week, I was dismayed when they had no desire to watch it. None. Zilcho. Nada. They preferred to jump on the trampoline and didn’t even ask to rewind it when they came inside.

So I struggled. Do I insist on them keeping a tradition that they don’t care about—all so I could feel good about giving them consistency? Do I pretend that we never had a Sunday night tradition and move on?

As I was struggling in my mind with this, a commercial came on, telling me that Extreme Home Makeover was moving to Friday nights. What??? I guess the decision was taken out of my hands.

I hope that I would have chosen to be with my girls rather than insist on a tradition they had grown out of, but I can’t say I would have. Part of the hardest part of parenting for me is staying relevant, but yet consistent. And not trying to do things the way I think they SHOULD be (I’m really good at putting everything in a box and tying it up neatly—until you see how much tape it took to get it to look that way—and you can’t unwrap it because there’s so much of that darn tape).

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


I've been feeling restless lately. I can't really pinpoint it to one thing, but as I was doing my narcissistic-self-analyzation last week, some things popped out at me.

#1—I always feel this way after a busy season. It’s the same story as Elijah and the prophets of Baal—he had done such a great thing with God’s power, but after it was over, he went and slept in a mountain for 40 days. Part of me wonders if he was depressed. I mean, I know about being tired, but to sleep for that long…I think he was experiencing that let-down after something big happens in ministry. That thing that is close to, if not completely—just plain ol’ depression.

#2—When I look at the reality of what needs to be maintained, I get this way. It’s one thing to start something, but it’s a whole ‘nother animal when you have to carry it out. It’s that consistency thing that always gets to me. I read a quote last week that I loved from Andy Stanley that went something like this: “Vision will make your capacity seem small. That’s when God can go to work on you.” I don’t know about you, but somedays, just the thought of all the stuff that God needs to “do a work on” in me makes me exhausted, which leads to restlessness as I try to figure out another plan.

#3—No matter how often I experience it, it’s always hard for me to distinguish between holy discontent and just plain discontent. Am I restless because God is calling me to something else, or am I restless because I don’t want to allow Him to do the work in me He needs to do? Is He calling me to rest in Him during this time and I’m struggling against it because I’m a creature of this society who hates being still? Or does He want me to give this away and open my eyes to other things around me?

No great words of wisdom—I’ll just keep yielding my thoughts and actions to the Spirit as He makes them known to me. But one day, I hope that God allows me to look back on this time and see it in the bigger scheme of things—from His point of view.

Until then, I remain obedient.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Rainy Days are meant for…

...Snuggling up in bed with a good book
...Moving really slowly
...Taking a break from the ordinary
...Curling up in a big comfy chair watching tv
...Snuggies (although I don’t know this from personal experience—YET)
...James Taylor, Aliison Krauss and Norah Jones
...Open windows
...Being lazy
...Soft voices
...Sweats and sweatshirts
...Soup and grilled cheese

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

It's a Balancing Act

I believe in efficiency. When I come home from the grocery store, I load up as many bags as possible in my hands so that I have to make fewer trips. So many that I usually have to go sideways through the door and tilt just right to make sure none of them snag and break open.

It started out as a challenge to myself—how many things could I hold without dropping them? Then, it just became a way of life—especially when I lived in an apartment that had a flight of steps to get to the kitchen. I’ve learned how to protect the bag with the eggs in it when it’s surrounded by 4 others and how to keep the bread from getting smooshed in the midst of the big pile of bags that gets dropped as soon as I get inside the door.

I don’t just do it with groceries. I tend to take a lot of “stuff” with me wherever I go and am usually loaded down when I arrive anywhere. People see me coming and wonder where my shopping cart is—it’s pretty bad.

And many times, I drop something. Usually, it’s my favorite cup-with-a-straw-that-doesn’t-sweat or some other item that I love and am too cheap to replace when the lid gets chipped from one of its many crashes to the concrete. As I’m balancing, I know in my head that I’m dangerously close to tipping, but the need to try to get it all done in one fatal swoop overpowers the common sense part of my brain.

I do this same thing with intangible things, too. I keep loading up things because I can. Quantity not quality, becomes my motto.

As I look at Jesus’ life, I wonder how much He juggled? There were times He spoke to thousands. There were other times when He just had the 12 around him—or even just 3. Somehow, everything in my being screams out that Jesus didn’t lump everything together—just to get it done. He treated each person as an individual, each task as the only one for that moment (imagine the craziness that surrounded the water to wine incident—can’t you just imagine Him calmly telling them what to do?).

I don’t wear a WWJD bracelet or anything, but some days I wonder how Jesus would carry His groceries in from the car if He lived today?

Saturday, October 8, 2011

A Beiber Village

I finally watched “Never Say Never” tonight. The girls weren’t really into him when the movie came out, so we didn’t ever go to the theatre (unlike my 13 year old niece who saw it several times there). I’ve tried to rent it a few times for family movie night and Brian has adamantly refused. Him being gone tonight gave us the perfect opportunity to have a girl’s movie night.

I don’t know a lot about Justin or his family. In fact, my knowledge is pretty limited to the few times I’ve heard him interviewed on the radio and watching his movie. I’ve heard he is a Christian. I knew he started singing in church. I saw him pray with his team before he went on-stage. My instinct says he’s a good kid and the kind of guy I would love to have serve as a volunteer alongside me.

Watching the movie, the thing that stood out the most to me was the incredible team he has around him who are all looking out for him. His family isn’t the picture perfect one, but there is no doubt that he is well loved. His managers, voice coach, even bodyguard all seem to not only want him to succeed, but want to protect him as well.

As a mom, I realize that it’s not always easy to surround your children with people who want the best for them. I can only imagine that is so much harder as the mom of a superstar and I have a huge amount of respect for Justin’s mom. I have trouble trying to decide whether to talk to my girls’ teachers and principal.

I don’t know that my girls will ever be superstars. Some days, I just hope they don’t grow up to be criminals (okay—I’m kidding…kinda). But I do know that I want them surrounded by people who believe in them, love them and want the best for them. I want people who keep them grounded (like his grandma who made him clean his room) and make them look good (like the managers who hand out tickets to unsuspecting girls). I want a Beiber village surrounding them.

Lord, make my home a greenhouse. One in which my girls grow and flourish, but not so protected that they wilt when they get outside it. Surround them with people who will stand for truth and not allow them to take shortcuts. Give them open hearts to listen to good advice and discernment to know when to ignore the bad advice. Make them leaders worth following and keep them ethically and morally pure.

And, ditto on the above prayer for Justin.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

What’s Wrong with Being Bossy?

I saw a quote the other day that has become my favorite:

“If you’d just do what I tell you, I wouldn’t have to be so bossy!”

Of course, it was written by a 4 year old, but I still love it. Maybe that’s because I’m bossy. I always have been. I can blame it on being the oldest and having leadership tendencies, but the truth is, even without those things, I would probably still think I needed to tell everyone what to do.

So, I know all the downsides to being bossy. I’ve had some hard lessons to learn. And—just in case I didn’t learn them myself—I am now re-learning them with my girls. We are all pretty bossy. And I know it’s not a trait that is celebrated, but I was once told a weakness was just a mis-used strength.

I think that’s the case with bossiness.

The world is full of people willing to follow. People who don’t want to take responsibility for their actions and want someone else to make decisions for them. Some of them are even bossy people—as I’ve found out with my own kiddos. But, I would rather they were occasionally bossy rather than always look to others to boss them.

While I don’t necessarily pray that my girls will be bossy, I do pray that they will be leaders. And I hope that I step into leadership when it’s required. While leadership is not synonymous with bossiness, a bossy person can be a great leader—if someone is willing to help re-direct them and to model for them how to get people to do things without feeling like you are bossing them.

In the Royal house, none of us girls has quite figured out that balance between the two yet. But we’re trying. And we are not giving up. And I pray every day that I raise up leaders who lead well—in their o-so-different ways.

And I pray that for myself, too. I just need more people to pray it so that it sticks for me. :)

Friday, September 30, 2011

Unwanted Blessings

For years I have wished we were able to hire someone to come clean my house and do my laundry. I have looked at the finances, tried to figure out what we could cut out to be able to swing this. Needless to say, it’s not an option for us unless I tell my girls and hubby they have to give up food for a couple of days—not sure that will go over well.

My house will never be the cleanest on the block—it also won’t be gross, but chances are, if you drop by unexpectedly, you’ll find lots of clutter everywhere you look. I’ve tried to instill it in my girls to pick up their stuff. And that if they choose to use the living room as their dressing room, they need to take their socks and shorts--and whatever other clothing they think looks nice laying on the floor or ottoman-- back to their dirty clothes hamper (do you sense any frustration with this last one?). And as much as I know it would be easier to load the dishwasher after dinner, I still let the dishes sit overnight because I'm too lazy to clean them.

Honestly, we’re messy. I do good to clean the toilets every couple of weeks—let alone scrub the shower scum. Cleaning doesn’t make me feel better. I’ll tell you a secret—as long as I don’t trip on it or smell it, I’m comfortable in an unkempt house. You can imagine how well that goes over with Brian.

As if that’s not enough to make you wonder if you really want to claim to know me, I’m gonna show my shallow side here--I’ve even prayed for God to provide a way for us to pay for someone to clean (some people pray for food for hungry kids in Africa, or shoes for people in India or salvation for those who don’t know Him—Me? A maid).

And I thought His answer was, “No.” Until this week.

Two-three days a week, my mother-in-law picks up my girls from school and stays with them until Brian or I get home from work. And while they are doing homework, she loads my dishwasher, empties my overflowing bathroom trashcans, pulls weeds in the front yard, and scrubs my shower scum. And, when our washing machine worked, she always did a couple loads of laundry (now she just takes a few things home with her every time).

Since your view of me is already pretty low, let me just go ahead and confess something else. Until recently, her doing all that really frustrated me. I felt like it was a reflection on what a bad wife and mom I was (because we all know that we should be able to bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan, and clean up the mess afterward). My insecurity kept me from seeing the answered prayer and huge blessing God had given me. Instead, I chose to resent her willingness to do these things.

I wonder how many other things I do that with? How many times do I pray for things and think God chose not to give them to me, when the truth is, He gave them to me—just not in the way I expected or even wanted? How many times does He give me blessings that I don’t think I want? How many times do I complain about something that I am not seeing as a blessing?

Some good stuff for me to ponder on this weekend…

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Blurry Pictures

If you’ve read any of my posts that have pictures in them, you have probably realized that I cannot take a picture without it being blurry. I have blamed it on my lack of talent, the camera I have, my inability to hold the camera still, the lighting and many other things. The fact of the matter is, I suck at taking pictures and it makes me incredibly sad.

I swore before I had children that I would document every stage in their life. And I tried with Hope. I have lots of studio pictures of her…before Caroline was born. Once I had my 2nd child, we were doing good to get holidays captured. The last studio pic I have of them was at Easter when Hope was 4 and Caroline was 2 years old. Caroline was sticking her tongue out (for which I caught a lot of flack, but looking at it now, makes me remember why I chose to buy that particular pic and send it to all of our family and friends—it’s priceless).

Anyway, reality quickly set in and I realized a) I couldn’t afford to keep doing studio pics and b) I’m not nearly as good a photographer as I always thought I would be. Then, when I was doing a good job of capturing the “in the moment” shots with my iPhone, I dropped it in the water and the camera no longer worked (and I’m too cheap to replace it until it completely dies—which it has a couple of times, but it keeps coming back).

So I sit here and kick myself. And worry that my girls will grow up resenting the fact that I seldom documented their life and when I did, it was so sporadic that it didn’t make much difference. And I have no picture of them in the same spot every year on their birthday. Or have any beautiful oil canvases of them. And have no yearly Christmas photo of our family that we send out to all our friends.

But the truth of the matter is, I don’t take good photos and don’t have the time or patience or equipment to learn, so my girls are gonna have boxes/cds full of blurry pictures to show their kids.

What did you think you would do really well as a parent that you have found you stink at? Do you worry it will scar your children?

Sunday, September 25, 2011

My Finish Line

Earlier this year, our staff read a book by Bill Hybels called "Axiom." Such a great book and an easy read. It's a bunch of short chapters on things he has learned from doing ministry at Willow Creek Community Church.

One of the chapters talked about having a finish line--that thing that you do to mark the end of a week, or season. As a staff, we talked a little about this. For some it was a margarita, for others, a good work-out. I was stumped for a long time. The nature of my job means that I usually work a little on both of my days off. Even though Thursday is technically my last day of the week, I don't leave the office feeling "finished."

So I finally gave up on figuring out a good finish line. Until I looked at my situation a bit differently. Even though Sunday is the first day of the week, it's the day I work toward all week. It's the culmination of all that I have done the previous week—it’s like Game Day for a football player.

And when it's over, and I leave the church and head to my house, I crash. I typically take an hour long nap (sometimes longer) and spend some time by myself in my room. When I wake up, I am ready to re-engage with my family. We have some fun, family traditions that we do and after the girls and Brian go to bed, I watch some trash TV. Definitely not a spiritual ending to the day, but somehow, it puts me in the mindset to want to get up in the morning and start all over again.

TV and books do the same thing for me. I’ve always been a reader, but I have really learned in the last year the art of balance between reading the books that develop me and the books that make me laugh and get out of my seriousness. Both bring me life.

And that’s ironic to me. The fact that I can grow as a leader by reading a book on “Visioneering” and by reading some other “fluff” that I’m a little embarrassed to post here. One leads me to think about what God is up to, and the other allows me to clear my mind so that I can be ready to listen and have the ability to apply what God is teaching/showing me.

So, I’m off to do a little “mind-clearing” now with some TV. God did invent the DVR, didn’t He?

Do you have a “finish line?” Do you have any weird things you do to unwind/be open to hearing from God?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Sleeping Naked

One of my children has decided recently that she wants to sleep naked. Naked at our house, is defined as only wearing your underwear. I won’t call her out and name names, but I didn’t just write a blog post about her before this one.

I haven’t quite figured out what to do, so I’ve just ignored it. That’s great parenting there, folks! Seriously, it’s not harming anyone, but it’s just kinda weird to me. She used to go to bed in jammies and by the time I went in to check on her before I went to sleep, she had shed them and was laying there snuggled up under her covers.

She’s not hot—her room is the smallest in the house and between the air conditioner and her ceiling fan, it’s usually the coolest. And she’s not a hot-blooded child, unlike her sister.

But it bugs me. I know, I know—I really need to get a life if I’m staying up worrying about what my daughter wears to bed. There are so many real things I could worry about, but instead, this plagues me constantly.

Sometimes parenting isn’t hard, it’s just weird. What kinds of weird things do your kids do that bug you?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Useless Keys

I've been parking my car in front of my house. As much as I love the driveway, it's a pain to have to switch places with Brian and neither of us like to park on the side of the driveway (me because it always gets muddy over there and I'm scared I'll hit the neighbor's fence--I am SUCH a horrible parker, and Brian because our driveway is starting to crack and he doesn’t want to park half on/half-off). Brian always has tools to load and unload so it just makes more sense for me to be the one to park out front.

Anyway, parking out front means I have to use my house key to get into the house instead of my handy-dandy garage door opener (which I love and miss using). Doesn’t sound like a big deal except that I have 2 identical keys on my key ring. Originally, the house key had an “H” written on it in black sharpie, but most of it has faded except for a tiny corner.

You’d think I would do something about those identical keys so I wouldn’t have to fumble every time I come home, but I haven’t. In fact, as I started looking at my key ring this morning, I realized that I only use 3 keys on there—my car key, my house key and my mail key. In fact, I’m not sure what any of the other keys go to—including the one that’s identical to my house key.

But I’m scared to throw any of them away. What if I all-of-a-sudden need them? You can’t get on the show “Hoarders” by keeping extra keys, can you?

Not to over-spiritualize a key ring, but the irony of it hit me this morning and I realized I carry around a lot of “useless” things. The comment someone made about my ears sticking out in elementary school still makes me not ever want to wear my hair up or in a hat. The fear that I’m dull, and that nobody will want to be my friend when they realize I’m not witty, hangs with me constantly. And the thought that I’m a bad mom and wife and employee because of a standard I think I need to meet goes with me everywhere—just like those useless keys.

The keys aren’t heavy and most of the time I don’t even notice them. Until I’m in a hurry to get in my house and go to the bathroom—that’s when the inconvenience of sorting through them all reminds me they are there and that I should do something about them.

But I haven’t yet.

Do you have any old keys hanging around? What are you afraid to get rid of, but know you should?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Some Leaders are Just Born

I wish I could say I was the kind of mom who just oozes love for my kids in everything I do, but I’m kinda mean to them. I get frustrated way too easily. I hate homework almost as much as them (although I do understand the need for it). My temper gets the best of me and I'm seldom as patient as I would like to be.

But there are times, when I am aware of how blessed I am and I take time to appreciate the character in my kiddos. I’ve felt that a lot lately with Hope. Believe me, it has not been an easy month with her (I won’t embarrass her here by telling some of the stories on her), but even in the middle of the chaos, I have become even more aware of what an incredible leader she has the potential to be.
She was born a leader. She learned to talk and walk way too early. She is too smart for her own good most days. And to top it off, she’s really funny. She has no problem making friends. In the past week, she was elected to Student Council by her class and Nat’l Elementary Honor Society by her teachers. She also plays soccer, has joined choir at school and is now on the praise team at church (where she was shaking her hips on stage this past Sunday). Not to mention the 80s party she was invited to last weekend.

All these things are great. But they are also scary. Because of the influence she has over people, we spend a lot of time talking about how we lead. And the fact that she is not only responsible for herself, but for others who follow her. And she doesn’t truly grasp the weight of that yet.

It scares me. I feel a lack of control that makes me want to grab her and make her do exactly what I say when I say it. You can imagine how well that would go over. There’s a part of me that knows she is going to have to learn the hard way—from her own mistakes. And I sooo want to protect her from that, but I can’t. And who’s to say that my choices would be any better than hers?

My job requires me to lead people. And I do it gladly—even though it scares me sometimes. But the stakes seem higher when it comes to Hope. Leading your own kids is even scarier. There’s a verse in 2 Chronicles that I love (I may have even blogged about it). It was when God made Solomon king and He told Solomon He would grant him anything he asked. Here’s what Solomon said:

“Give me wisdom and knowledge, that I may lead this people, for who is able to govern this great people of yours?” 2 Chronicles 1:10

I’ve prayed that for the past few years for my small group leaders, but I’ve recently started praying it for my girls, too. Leading a leader is hard, especially when it’s as cute as this:

Shower Gel Bubble Baths

Last night I decided to take a bath. As I went looking for some good-smelling bubble bath (or bath foam, as it’s now called with some brands), the only thing I could come up with was Caroline’s Tinkerbell bubble bath—which was extremely sweet smelling and made my headache even worse when I opened the top to smell it.

As I pondered what to do—was it really worth it to take a bath in JUST water?—I started feeling sad. I can’t remember the last time I took a bath. Before you start to gag, I take a shower pretty much every morning (jammie days excluded), but that’s to get clean. Taking a bath is to relax. There’s some washing that happens in there, but, for me, it’s really just to unwind and soak.

When I was pregnant with Hope, I used to take a bath 5-6 times a week. When I was single, I took one 3-4 times a week. But , as I started my water last night, I couldn’t remember the last time I took a bath. The thing is, I’m a mom and a wife now. My tub doesn’t get cleaned as often as it used to. I work all day, come home and either cook dinner or clean up (or sometimes both), help with homework, engage with my girls and hubby in conversation and when they are finally in bed, I want to just sit. The thought of cleaning out the tub so I can relax is not worth it.

Another thing about taking a bath that is hard for me is that it forces me to do nothing. Now that I have a Kindle and iPhone, I don’t have many paper books anymore, and if I do, they are borrowed from the library or a friend. My iPhone has had a couple of baths and the outcome has not been good, so I keep my electronics—and borrowed items--as far from water as possible. So, a bath—for me—means that I just sit and soak. This is not something I do well. I’m a “do-er” and when I sit, I think about all the things I should be doing, which causes me to stress that I’m not doing them at that very minute and the “relaxation” time turns into wasted time.

But God calls us to be still.

And I don’t think He begrudges us taking care of ourselves, either. I think back to Elijah. In 1 Kings 19, we see some incredible things God does because of Elijah’s faith in asking for them. Then we see God take care of Elijah through ravens. And we see Him speak to Elijah—not in a powerful wind, not in an earthquake, not in a fire, but in a gentle whisper.

This story tells me 2 things: #1—No matter how much I “do” for God (or others), He still wants me to take care of myself. I still need to eat and rest. #2—I can’t hear His whisper if I’m not still. This one really hits me with my hearing loss—I don’t hear whispers very often and in order for me to do so, I have to get rid of all the white noise around me first.

So, last night, as I was soaking in my tub, listening to my Nora Jones Pandora mix, enjoying the scent of my new mango bodywash I used as my bubble bath, I got still. And I don’t think God spoke any great thing to me. What I do know is that I was weary when I got in the tub. When I got out, I was still tired, but renewed. Hard to describe. I got in my jammies, put on my new aloe-infused socks, and climbed into bed with a book about leading people that I haven’t picked up in a few weeks.

As I am writing this morning and reflecting back to last night, I think God did whisper to me. I don’t know that I was still enough to hear it at the time.

I guess I’ll be taking another bath tonight. Maybe I’ll go to the store and get some real bubble bath this time.

Is it hard for you to "be still and know that He is God?" What things to you do to block out the white noise in your life? Do you own any bubble bath?

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Four Little Lunches all in a Row

Most mornings, I get up early and make 4 different lunches for my family. I pretend that it’s a beat-down. I act like I am put-out by having to do it every day. Which is really just silly.

The truth is, I kinda like making their lunches. I’m not the Suzy-Homemaker kind of mom. I don’t have fresh-baked cookies or freshly-scrubbed bathrooms waiting for them when they get home from school and work. And I don’t think I have ever worn an apron.

But, there is one thing I can do that speaks love to them in the same way. I can make sure their lunches are individualized and not just mass-produced. I’m always in a rush in the morning—no matter how early I get up-- so I’ve thought about making them the night before. I don’t like a hard sandwich and don’t want my family to have to eat one either, so I make ‘em fresh in the morning. And each bag is packed with different items.

Bethca can’t guess which lunchbox is whose—I’ll give you a hint—Brian’s is NOT the hot pink leopard print.

Caroline gets a peanut butter or bologna sandwich (with the crusts cut off)—I switch off which kind each day. She would love white bread, but is stuck with the wheat that I buy. She always gets Cheetos or Fritos, string cheese and either fruit or a Little Debbie snack. She LOVES it when I write a note on her napkin and she never gets tired of lemonade Capri-Suns.

Hope gets a peanut butter sandwich (also with the crusts cut off). I’m not sure why neither of my girls like jelly, but they only want peanut butter (and not to much—they don’t like Brian making their sandwiches because he puts a lot of peanut butter on them). Hope isn’t nearly as picky with what kind of chips so she gets Cool Ranch, Cheetos, Fritos, Doritos or Sun chips—whatever I come up with first (since she’s the only one in the house who likes Cool Ranch, I usually give her those first). I always pack fruit, string cheese, a granola bar and sometimes a snack cake. No Capri-Sun for her—she prefers a bottle of water.

Brian is easy—except that he gets icepacks in his lunch to keep his sandwich cold. I just load up some bread with a lot of sandwich meat, throw in a bag of chips (which doesn’t always get eaten), toss in a banana and some baby oranges and he’s good. Once in a while, I’ll put in some trail mix or peanut butter crackers. The biggest challenge with him is making sure he doesn’t forget it on the kitchen countertop.

I always get the hodge-podge. If there are leftovers from dinner (which means that I actually cooked the night before), I take those or I’ll make a sandwich. I always throw in some snacks to replenish the ones in my desk that the girls devour every time they come into my office.

Maybe one of these days, I’ll tell them how much I love to do this for them—especially since the girls are getting older and like to do things themselves. I look at it as my way of serving them—guess I shouldn’t let them continue to believe it’s a hardship on me.

Then again, a mom’s gotta have a few secrets.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


I love Survivor. Seriously, I L-O-V-E this show. It’s silly. And I would never go on it. But I tune in almost every season to watch. I’ve missed a few, but those are the years we don’t talk about.

We have a rule at our house that we don’t turn on the TV on school nights. Actually, that’s what Brian says the rule is, but the rule is really that we don’t turn on the TV until the girls are in bed. Then he proceeds to watch all the shows that make me crazy and I wait til he goes to bed and then I watch all the shows that would make him crazy. I digress…

I’m breaking that rule tonight. I have it recorded. And I will watch it again with Brian when he gets home later. But I’ve turned on the TV and will watch it with the girls on a school night. And they’re almost as excited as me.

It’s really not a show that is uplifting or one that I should probably let my girls watch. People cuss. They walk around in their underwear. And they are often mean. But then again, most of that happens in real life, too. I’m not justifying it. And I wouldn’t let them watch it if I wasn’t in the room. But I am the bad mom who allows her kids to watch it.

But it also brings up some great conversations between the girls and me. Tonight’s was the fact that you can’t always judge people on their looks. Being pretty doesn’t make everything ok. Another lesson I hope they get from it is the value of teamwork and cheering each other on. The team that usually fails is the one where everyone turns on each other (but not always).

Brian could so make it on the survival part of Survivor—that man could build a shelter, start a fire and catch his dinner all in the first day on his own; but he’d be the first one voted out because he’s too nice. I would fail at the first challenge where I had to run and climb and crawl and dig; but if I could keep up in the challenges, I think I could make it to the merge before I got my torch snuffed. My mouth would get me in trouble and I would refuse to put up with cocky people (and there’s always a couple of those who make it to the end).

Yes, there are so many better things I could do with my time. But for now, Wednesday nights will be spent watching Survivor.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Deep Thoughts on Marriage by Hope Royal

“When people get married, they shouldn’t be the same size. The lady should be smaller than the man. And she should always look younger."

I started to try to explain that people age differently depending on their lifestyle, where they live... Then I just stopped. Sometimes it's better to just sit quietly while your 9 year old solves all the problems of the world.

Sunday, September 11, 2011


Today is the 10 year anniversary of 9/11. I think everyone can tell you where they were when they got word that terrorists had attacked our country. While I remember it and think about that day often, I haven’t really shared it with my girls. What do you say? How much do you tell them?

Hope heard most of the story at school. And it made me sad that we hadn’t talked more about it at home first. It’s not that I was hiding it from her; I just didn’t want to scare her. As we were talking the other night (after they had a big discussion in class), I told her a little bit about it. I told her how I was 7 months pregnant with her and had just flown the week before. I told her how quiet it was with no planes flying overhead on their way to DFW Airport that week. I told her how sad our whole country was.

Here’s the other part that I didn’t tell her: it shook me to my core.

I was a sales manager and had been on the phone on my way to Ft Worth so I didn’t even know what happened until I got to my client’s. That was when we still thought it was an accident. We went to look at a job and when I dropped my client back off, we saw the footage from the 2nd plane on a little TV in their shop.

While I knew in my head what had happened, I don’t think it set in until I got home and sat next to Brian on the couch and watched all the reports. When I walked in the door of my house, I will never forget the expression on Brian’s face. It was one of total disbelief. As we sat there, watching the reports, we were stunned. I’ll never forget Brian’s words, “What kind of world are we bringing our child into?” Would she grow up in a time of war? Would the freedom that we had experienced be a thing of the past?

Many questions zoomed through my head as I sat glued to the TV for the next few days. So much anger when I saw the videos of Bin Laden laughing about the full tanks of gas causing even more destruction. Sadness as I saw families holding up pictures of their loved ones. Pride as I heard the phrase, “Let’s roll.” And chills as I saw our politicians gather to sing.

9/11 changed our nation. But we sometimes forget. While I value our freedom, I am sad that it takes an epic tragedy like that to bring us together. I pray often for our leaders—whether I agree with them or not. 9/11 reminded me of the importance of that. It still does.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Big Day

Everyone has a day they anticipate—one they look forward to. For some kids, it’s the 1st day of school, for others, it’s the last. For a bride, it’s her wedding day. For a salesperson, it’s the day the commission check comes in. For a football player, it’s game day.

For me, this year, it’s kick-off Sunday. I’ve been excited before. I’ve been really nervous before. This day comes every year. It’s the day when we officially start the new fall year. The day we graduate kiddos and unleash new volunteers. The day when we welcome back seasoned volunteers and get to see the refreshed and excited looks in their eyes from having the summer off. The day we get to see if all the planning that has taken place over the past several months really works.

It’s the day we get a “do-over.” When all things are new and the slate is clean.

And it’s exciting. And a bit scary.

But I can’t wait. I find myself almost giddy when I think about it—you know that feeling that takes over your body and makes you want to just do a little dance? I’m praying it doesn’t overcome me in a public place--that might be a little embarrassing.

Excited, thrilled, happy—all adjectives I’ve used to describe my feelings over the past week. All inadequate.

I can hardly stand it! And it begins in less than 24 hours…

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Being Ignored Sucks

Brian has been walking the girls to school every morning. I say that he’s walking them, but I caught him letting them go at the corner today. Hmmm…still not sure how I feel about that, but they were with a group of kids and the school is right there.

I left for work shortly after they did and had to drive past the school on my way. I saw the girls cross at the cross walk. And they saw me. And they ignored me! Seriously—Caroline kept looking back at me and smiling, but would turn her head every time I waved.

Not only did they ignore me, they started walking faster. It took all I had not to roll down all my windows and yell, “YOU-HOO!!!” at the top of my lungs.

But I was a good mom. Guess its good practice for the teenage years.

Still sucks, though!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Taking It for Granted

I wish Blogger had smell-a-blog. I would add the incredible smell outside to this post. Caroline said it best when she remarked, “It smells like snow.” That was my first thought, too, this morning when I went outside.

Although I wouldn’t ever put anything past Texas weather, snow is a long way off, but a 67 degree morning after months of triple digit temps is sooo appreciated and welcomed.

I'm famous for taking things for granted and not appreciating what I have. As I was sweating at a soccer game a few weeks ago and complaining about how hot it was, I remembered wearing layers of clothes and being wrapped up in a blanket at a game in February, complaining about how cold and miserable it was. Maybe that’s God’s way of telling me my girls need to just do indoor sports, or MAYBE, it was His gentle reminder to enjoy the moment and not always look ahead or behind.

It’s certainly easy to do that today, when the weather is gorgeous and I have a whole day ahead of me in which I plan to stay in my jammies. So, maybe I’ll practice today.

And pray for Him to remind me on those days when it seems much harder to live in the moment.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Just Another Ordinary Life

Today is the end of the 2nd week of school. We are starting to get into a rhythm around here. The girls are used to leaving the TV off during the week now (although they still try to see if we’ll let them turn it on every so often), homework is being completed every night (usually with some prodding) and lunches are made every morning (ugh--'nough said there!).

My girls are still too loud most days and make some strange noises—both intentionally and unintentionally. They still throw fits—even though we don’t waver on the consequences. They still tell us “No!” even though they get themselves in trouble by doing so. I still struggle to remember what I had planned for us to eat for dinner tonigh when I went to the grocery store a few days ago.

Pretty ordinary.

Shouldn’t a Christ-follower’s life be exciting? As I was sitting here this morning thinking about the life of Jesus, I kept thinking of all the great miracles He performed and all the people He taught. And what a non-ordinary life He led.

And then I remembered His first 30 years. The years only referred to a couple of times. And I wonder what those days were about for Him? I wonder if He ever felt they were ordinary (read: boring) or if He was thankful for the basic-ness of them in light of what was coming?

Thankfully, I won’t be dying on a cross for everyone’s sins (seriously, you people would be out of luck, cuz I’d chicken out after the 1st lash of the whip, save myself and tell y’all to figure it out on your own). So I don’t have that to look forward to.

But, there’s much to be said for the times when life just seems to be going along with no huge lessons in it for me. To be totally sacrilegious here, I keep thinking of the Karate Kid “waxing on, and waxing off.”

So, maybe the ordinary times are a time of preparation. Maybe they’re intended to be a time of rest. Maybe there’s no purpose at all. BUT, that doesn’t allow me to turn inward in those times.

After all, wasn’t Simon Peter having an ordinary day of fishing when Jesus called him?

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

When am I old Enough?

There have been lots of discussions this past week in the Royal house about age. And when someone is old enough to do something. Okay. Really, they’ve all centered on Hope. She is now in 4th grade and will be 10 in a few short months. And I am amazed. I won’t go on and on here about how the time has flown, but it really has!

The latest conversation is “When am I old enough to walk home from school?” But, as I’ve been pondering the question, I think it really boils down to me. Hope is ready. Her school is right down the block (seriously, I could stand in front of our house and watch her walk most of the way). She even has a sister to keep her company and lots of other kids who would cross the street at the same place—not to mention the crossing guard.

So the question really is, “When am I going to let her walk home without me?”

And I still don’t know the answer.

As I think back to myself at her age, there are some major differences. I was a very independent and responsible child. In fact, looking back, I was too responsible. And most of it was my own doing. Hope’s personality is so much like me that it’s often scary. And I try to protect her from herself more often than not.

But am I doing her any favors? Am I protecting her or am I protecting me?

Have I told you how hard it is to be a parent?

Monday, August 29, 2011

More Learnings from the Laundromat

Yep, we are still without a washer and it looks like it may be a while before we get one. Not a bad thing, really. Just inconvenient at times. But, oh, so nice to get all my laundry done in a 2 hour period and not have to worry about it the rest of the week (unless you send your daughter to soccer practice in the wrong uniform because you didn’t read the email…grrr).

The girls now think the Laundromat is a fun place to go. They seriously beg me to be able to go with me. And I make them help fold, so they are working (even when one is folding and the other is sliding it down the table so that it is all messed up by the time it gets put on the pile). So, Saturday night, I let them go with me—even though they would be up a little later than I would have liked them to be.

Here are some of the things I learned this time around:

• There are big lessons you can teach about sharing and treating others the way we want to be treated. Especially when they try to “hog” all the baskets and feel the need to guard a whole side of a table so nobody else can use it.

• It’s much easier to teach my girls kindness toward other people than toward each other. They love to help people by opening the doors when they have a full load--even when they are fighting over who's gonna do it.

• No matter where you, there will always be rude people. You can choose whether you want to let them affect your experience.

• When the triple load machine that has all your soccer clothes, pants you wanna wear the next day and most of your hubby’s good clothes doesn’t work, but the door locks and you have to wait 32 minutes for it to finish before you can move them to another machine, it’s a great lesson in patience.

• Your kids will notice the way you talk to the employee—whether he’s being effective at his job or not.

• Using the change machine is almost as good as a video game

• When strangers comment on how well your girls get along (even when they are running, being way too loud and not focusing on the task at hand) it makes you re-evaluate the ultimate goal of doing laundry together

As crazy as it sounds, I think I’m gonna miss taking them to the Laundromat with me in the coming weeks (I’m gonna have to do it while they are in school). They make me crazy and every time I leave there, it usually ends with me talking in the “mean voice.”

But then I reflect on the entire experience and I realize that crazy as it sounds, these will be some of their favorite memories of time together when they grow up. My challenge is to get out of the momentary task at hand and be willing to see the big picture.

Neatly folded clothes are not as important as giggling girls.

Consistency Ain't Easy, Folks

Consistency is hard. I think it’s the most difficult thing for me as a parent. It’s so much easier to change the way I do things—I like to call it “adapting” and being “flexible.”

But really, most of the time, I’m just being lazy. I don’t want to enforce the new chore system, or schedule or rule about watching TV during the week. I want a break, so I “give in.” It’s something that all parents are guilty of at one point or another.

And the first step is always the hardest. For example, I came home last night, utterly exhausted. Thankfully, Brian brought me some dinner left over from his date night with Caroline, so I didn’t have to cook anything—I just had to warm it up in the microwave (which I’m still convinced is tied with the dishwasher for the best invention ever for a mom who works outside the home).

So I ate. And when I was done, I just put my plate in the sink. The dishes in the washer were clean and I didn’t want to unload it. My plate wasn’t alone in the sink—there were a couple of cups, a bowl and some silverware.

This morning, when I went into the kitchen, the entire side of the sink was filled. Guess I wasn’t the only one who didn’t feel like unloading the dishwasher. And, since there were already a few things in the sink, it made it easier for everyone else to add to the pile.

If I would have taken the time to empty the dishwasher last night, rinsed my dirty dishes and put them in there, my job this morning would have been much simpler. Instead, I still emptied the dishwasher and now filled it back up with dishes that others would have put in there themselves if they had not seen a sink–full of dirty dishes.

I’m not doing anyone any favors by being inconsistent—not myself and especially not my girls. But it doesn’t make it any easier. Or exciting. Consistency is rather boring.

But, God calls us to it. Jesus modeled it. I think it would have been so much easier for Him to just hang out with his 12 friends—they didn’t “get” it anyway, so why keep telling them? Why not just enjoy the time with them? Seriously, this is the man who turned water into wine--think of how much fun they could have had if He had gotten off-course of His purpose for being here.

He didn’t do that. And while His role of teaching the masses and saving the world was and is so much more important than my dirty kitchen, I think the same concept still applies.

Consistency isn’t easy, but it’s what He is calling me to at this moment.

Monday, August 22, 2011

First Day of 2nd and 4th Grade

I'm a creature of habit. I like things to stay the same. I also get stuck in a rut. Seriously—I could eat the same meal for lunch and dinner every day for a week before I was sick of it.

So, while I am sad summer is over, I am glad to be able to get back into some kind of routine. To know that my girls are learning something since their loser mom didn’t really make them read much or do multiplication facts at all over the summer. Just one more reason why I don’t home school—my kids would sooo be the dumb ones if I had to be the one to teach them. We’d start out looking something on the computer and end up on YouTube watching Tim Hawkins’ videos all day. Really. That’s what we did for over an hour tonight instead of doing anything productive, but they now know most of the words to “Fire Ants.” Lovely.

I am not great at capturing memories on film. And if I do, the quality is so poor that I might as well have just enjoyed the moment instead of trying to take a good pic.

BUT, I make my kids pose in front of the school sign every year. Hope hates it. Even Caroline has decided it’s not cool. Thankfully, there were other kids being humiliated by their parents doing the same thing, so I didn’t have to argue too loudly and was able to snap a quick one.

And since you probably can’t see it from the distance, Hope’s shirt says, “Hope.” She wanted to make sure her teacher would remember her name. And Caroline talked me into one of those shirts with the dye that smells like food. So she was going around all day asking people to smell her shirt. Yep...I don't think anyone will forget either of my girls very easily.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

It was the Summer of 2012

Summer will officially be over at midnight. School starts tomorrow and I now have a 2nd grader and a 4th grader. This was a good summer. It didn’t feel too long or too short—it was just right for the Royals.

Here are some of our highlights:

We jumped right into Fine Arts Day Camp our 1st week after school was out. Hope was Snow White

Caroline was a Minstrel

We went to a Royal family reunion in Gruene, Texas and floated the Comal River one day—such fun!

We took an extra day to go to San Antonio so the girls could see the Alamo for the first time.

Brian did some work at the farm for Granny, so the girls went with him and stayed for a couple of weeks.

I joined them to watch fireworks from the roof on the 4th. So sad that the pic came out too dark to show how much fun this was.

The girls spent a lot of time at their Mimi’s. Each Wednesday, she volunteers at a local pet store and the girls were able to go with her—this was always a highlight.

We went to a wedding in Oklahoma and stayed another night with Granny. Hope took pics of us in our “dress clothes” but she only got head shots.

We went to Hawaiian Falls with friends and got really burnt because I let the girls put on their own sunscreen

And, we ended the summer with snow cones from our favorite place—The Snow Cone Lady.

No big family trips this year. No big camps either. Just a simple summer. But a good one.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Like Father, Like Daughter

The other night, we were at dinner and Caroline did this:

Yep, it’s a roll that she hollowed out and put on her nose. There was something vaguely familiar about this.

Oh, yeah—here’s a pic of Brian around the same age:

He used a pickle.
Like father, like daughter.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Things I learned from the Water Park

…if you’re not around when your 9 year old and her friends are hungry, that won’t stop them from helping themselves to lunch

…if you take your eyes of your kids, they’ll feed their animal crackers to the birds
…ice cream makes everything better
…there are places that will still give you free ice water
…Hope + wave pool and a tube = happy 9 year old
…Caroline + lazy river = happy 7 year old
…it's always more fun with friends

…when a bird poops on your daughter’s towel, she will take yours
…there’s no such thing as packing too many snacks
…7 year old girls still hold hands when they are running off to play
…when you allow your children to put on their own sunscreen, they will more than likely get burned
...this is what you get at the end of the day:

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Moments Like This

I'll just warn you up front. This is really just a bragging, make-myself-feel-better as a mom kind of post. I’m just sayin.

I had to run to the store tonight (yes, I just bought groceries last night, but Brian’s foot is swollen and he wanted some Aleve. Before you go and think that I’m a good wife, just know I went in protest and wasn’t showing him too much love).

Soooo, I came home from the store and Hope’s light was on—30 minutes after she was supposed to be in bed. When I went in her room, this is what I found:

This is not a common occurrence in our house. My girls have been at each other and being trapped in a car with them for several hours this past weekend didn’t help any of us.

BUT, once in a while, they love each other well. And I’m choosing to celebrate this moment—whether I ever get to see a sweet picture of a big sister reading to her little sister (and using fun voices for the different animals) again or not.

I wonder if this is what God thinks as He looks at humankind. We spend a lot of time in conflict with each other, but every once in a while, we come together in a sweet way.

I can totally imagine Him running to get his camera so that he can capture it.