Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The End of the Early Years

When I first heard of my mom’s group, it was officially a chapter of the international MOMS Club. A woman at church named Marie told me about it when she noticed my large pregnant belly. She told me about this mom’s club she was in, and I just shrugged her off. I wasn’t the type to join clubs like that. Play dates weren’t my thing. Besides, it was my first pregnancy and I didn’t think I’d need a group of moms to help me through motherhood. Really; how hard could it be?!

And then Tuesday, June 17, 2003 happened. I became a mom. It started off pretty well, until I took her home four days later. The panic set in and hit full throttle the following Monday. I remember being in the pediatrician’s waiting room for our first checkup, and I looked up Marie’s phone number. I called her from the waiting room to ask about that mom’s club she mentioned. Two days later, I met the group for the first time at a local park play date.

From the moment I said hello to these women, I knew I had found a place where I would be accepted and encouraged. One woman could tell that I was shell-shocked and in the beginning throes of postpartum depression. She sought me out while the kids played (and I held my fussy baby), and gave me some of the best parenting advice I’ve ever received: It will get better.

I joined the group, and found kindred souls. My parents died when my first child turned one, and I lacked any direction for the hardcore parenting issues. The women in my mom’s group became my saving grace. We discussed every single aspect of parenting: discipline issues (Time Outs or not?), breastfeeding vs. formula feeding, how to get my daughter to sleep through the night, how to introduce new foods, how to adapt my marriage around a new focus, and so many other things. In the group, I found women who would give me a break from holding my infant (I felt like all I ever did was hold her in those early months!) and women who would call me after play dates to make sure I was doing okay because they sensed despair in my eyes earlier that morning. I met people who have different backgrounds than me and much different parenting styles, but we all had one thing in common: raising our babies the best way we knew how.

But mom’s group went beyond parenting: I found some of my best friends through the group, and encouraged my already-existing-friends to join the group so they could share in what I’d found too. I found exercise buddies who trained for (and completed!) half marathons with me.IMGP8698

My kids made friends they still play with.

I learned so much about the town we live in and what cool things are available to do. (Who knew you could tour the trash center?)DSC04588

I’ve traveled to other states and visited some members who have moved away.DSC04066

I’ve road-tripped to Kansas City to attend a parenting workshop, and to Chicago for IKEA shopping trips.DSC07191

One member inspired then encouraged me to start writing a blog.

I learned how to cook new things I never would have tried. (I still make Megan’s Biscuits and Gravy Casserole and Brina’s Buffalo Chicken Dip!)Others outfitted my children with outgrown wardrobes. We’ve shared inspiring books through a now-defunct book club. And even though it isn’t a religious-based group, I can trace my salvation back to two women I met through this group.

The impact from saying yes to one little invitation is astounding.IMGP8063 (2)

One day, I looked around and realized I was one of the moms in the group who was welcoming other parents (we had dads by then too!), and checking on them after play dates when they had despair in their eyes. That was one of the best parts of my mom’s group: I got to pay the gift of encouragement forward, to a set of parents who were new to the gig and still blindly feeling their way around.

And now, my time is up. I’ve been in the group for nine years, and both my kids are school-age. The end of July marks the end of my membership, and the end of an incredibly challenging, rewarding, growth-inducing chapter of my life. It’s been so much more than a play date; it’s been a living, breathing part of my life for nine years. I’ve seen 134 members come and go (yep, I counted ‘em!), and each one of them left a mark on my soul.

To all of you who ever were or still are part of my mom’s group: thank you for all the ways you’ve been a part of my family’s life!

“So much of me is made of what I learned from you. You’ll be with me like a handprint on my heart. And now whatever way our stories end I know you have re-written mine by being my friend.” (from Wicked)

Aimee, Rachel, Amanda, Gretchen, Jennifer, Heidi, Julie, Jamie, Lynna, Jennifer, Michelle, Michelle, Jennifer, Elizabeth, Jessica, Melissa, Heather, Erin, Whitney, Shannon, Lauri, Alieceia, Rachelle, Carol, Mary Jane, Andrea, Christina, Stacy, Amy, Leslie, Kelley, Kristin, Danelle, Patricia, Dena, Carla, Jana, Angie, Andrea, Janine, Patricia, Alice, Tina, Reisha, Donne, Krista, Molly, Brina, Erin, Ginger, Nick, Christina, Jill, Chris, Emily, Heather, Lisa, Shannon, Amy, Judy, Rachel, Laura, Mary, Tiffani, Leigh, Brooke, Sarah, Michele, Sarah, Carrie, Crystal, Mandy, Stacey, Wendy, Lea, Tori, Jennifer, Donna, Hope, Olivia, Beth, Joe, Suzy, Angie, Paula, Cynthia, Kim, Kim, Lissa, Lyndi, Petrissa, Kim, Denise, Emily, Cristyn, Christy, Michelle, Becky, Rebecca, Jodie, Peggy, Megan, Holly, Harini, Susan, Angie, Kim, Miriam, Kathy, Monica, Mary, Tammy, Jessica, Helen, Danielle, Kerry, Jeanne, Kelly, Julia, Michelle, Marie, Tammy, Shannon, Karen, Teresa, Sharon, Cathy, Nikki, Jennifer, Brett, Jenn, Jennifer, Elizabeth, Kurt, RenaeGroup photo #1

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Job Reflections

Today marks six months since I started working at my church. In that time, the nice and tidy little shoebox of my life has been unlidded, dumped onto the floor, and sorted out in an entirely new way.

When I started working, I envisioned that my new job would just fold neatly into my already-established life and routine. I thought it would be just an addition to my world, with the added bonus of a paycheck. Yippee! Oh, how I laugh at that thought now.

I started working, and everything in my life came to a halt. Things started immediately unraveling around me (computer crashing, kids’ illnesses, email hacked, food poisoning, Dan’s work load doubled) and then there were the other circumstances of life: Jackson had to start at a new school. Special events at church: a party called Blastoff, this little church event called Easter, then Child Dedication classes and the year culminated in our church’s baptism celebration. And then I added in a few other chaotic events (I planned my high school reunion and traveled to Georgia, then traveled to Florida for a separate trip, and there was this ill-timed big project I plopped on myself by having 2,000 of my mom’s old photos scanned).

I knew life was unraveling so it could be re-woven from the ground up. I knew I needed a new perspective if I was going to be successful at this job – and especially if I was going to fully allow God to direct my life.

God used all these events to mold me (and He still continues to mold me) and to help me learn obedience. There’s a reason I haven’t had a chance to blog about all the changes in my life these last six months. If I had written about it in the first or second month, there would have been lots of tearful words and confusion. That was the stage where I considered quitting the job. But in my rational moments, I knew I wanted (and needed!) it. I had enough perspective to know the job wasn’t the problem; it was the new routine that made me struggle.

I spent so much time treading water and protecting my boundaries those first few months. I said NO to every single thing that wasn’t related to my job, my husband and kids, or planning my class reunion. It was a maturation for me to learn limits and boundaries. When I was young, I said yes because I could. I knew I would be successful even if it was something I didn’t enjoy or was naturally good at. Now I say no because I know I don’t have to do it!

I conserved my energy because the new routine was exhausting me. (I have taken more naps since I started this job than all the naps over the past five years combined.) And then in the third and fourth month, I realized I wasn’t living. I was getting the job(s) done, but there was no joy in my life. So I said yes to a few choice things: one of them was facilitating a class at church. I am an extrovert, and I knew I needed relationship with other people to energize my soul.

One night on the way home from class, I remembered a quote I read (and it used to be a banner on my blog) that says, “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning to dance in the rain.” That reminded me of something I wrote in my baptism application in 2009, when I equated my life with Jesus as a dance. For many years, I tried to dance on my own. After a while, I realized dancing alone really stinks. So I decided to start dancing with Jesus. I wrote, “I’m taking Christ’s hand and finishing the dance with Him.” On the night I drove home and remember the “dancing in the rain” quote, I realized I hadn’t been dancing very much since January 24. I was too darn overwhelmed to dance; I mostly stood still on the dance floor and hoped I wouldn’t trip and fall flat on my face. I vowed to start changing that, and start dancing again.

In the fifth and sixth months of the new job, I found my rhythm and asked Jesus to lead the dance again. That was around the time of the baptism celebration, and it filled my heart with newfound joy. I was also learning more about my job – getting to know my 100+ volunteers, having discussions about Jesus’ impact on my life, and building a community of coworkers and coworshipers.

And that brings us to now: the sixth month mark of one of the most formative changes in my life. The 10+ years after my high school graduation was one of them (college, meeting my husband, my parents’ divorce, losing my brother then Mom then Dad, and having children), but this last six months has given that decade a run for its money. It hasn’t been as emotional painfully as divorce and death, but God has been molding me just as much. I know this because I have a new perspective:

  • The number one theme from this past six months (and even before that, because it started in the interview process) has been OBEDIENCE. I have wanted to run away, but God has whispered, “Stay.” So I did. I didn’t like the painful growth I was experiencing, but God told me to stick it out. He did so by using my boss and coworkers to encourage me, using his scripture to confirm I was exactly where I needed to be, and He gave me a sense of peace that just didn’t make sense. The theme came up on a daily basis in my job as a mother, and every time I talked to Jackson about obeying me, I felt God nudging me in the same way. Not in a smirky “aren’t you the pot calling the kettle black” way, but in a gently convicting way. So I just quit my whining and vowed to obey Him. I followed.
  • I gained perspective on my perspective too. I go through life planning not just this coming weekend or even then next, but I plan months in advance. I’m a little too focused on what’s next instead of what’s now (see my post from last week to my niece, Hannah). I practiced a perspective change and instead of thinking of tomorrow or next week, I started thinking of only the next hour. I did that for a bit while in survival mode. Once I got through that feeling, I broadened the perspective to be the next few hours or maybe even the next day. But before I get too far ahead of myself, I have learned to reel myself back in and just focus on the NEXT BEST THING. Not the end result; only what the next minor step needs to be. That helps tremendously.
  • One of the main concerns of my job is finding the right amount of volunteers to serve each weekend so we have the correct ratio of adults to children. The very first Sunday I worked, I came home and cried for hours. I felt helpless because I had no idea how a handful of volunteers would be able to cover so many deep needs. And then God started stepping His way into the CONTROL freak arena of my life. I have worked 24 Sundays now, and every single one of them has been an exercise in trusting His provision. Here’s an example: in our nursery area, we have had to close the room and not allow any more babies inside because we literally don’t have enough arms to hold the babies. Imagine how hard it is to turn away parents and tell them we have no room for their baby at church. Ugh! There was one specific weekend when we started the morning with two volunteers in the nursery. Based on our ratios, that means we only had room for six babies. At a church where about a thousand people attend two services every weekend, six babies was miserably paltry. I woke that morning stressing out about how to turn away families again. Yet by the time worship services started, God had provided enough extra volunteers that we didn’t have to close the room. I was dumbfounded all morning long when random volunteers walked up and asked if we needed extra hands in the  nursery. (They weren’t just random people; they were regular volunteers who were scheduled to be off that day and felt a nudge to check in and help.) God was using His biggest megaphone to shout to me: “I AM IN CONTROL. Let me handle it and it won’t fall apart. I got your back!” He still does this almost every single weekend without fail.
  • I also learned SECURITY is an illusion when my computer crashed at the start of February. You’d think I’d be over it by now, wouldn’t you? Yes, I’m technically over it, but it’s a painful lesson that reverberates even today. It’s a broad theme of my life that I first learned when my brother died (the illusion of security goes hand in hand with taking life for granted), and it’s a lesson I apparently keep needing to learn as the years go by.
  • These last six months, I have learned to DEPEND on others a lot more than I did before. I have that silly pride issue that is quite common: I feel the need to be self-sufficient so I’m not indebted to anyone and so I don’t appear weak and needy. *snort* THAT makes me laugh because I have felt so weak and needy since January 24th! I have depended on friends and neighbors and my husband a lot more than ever before. The hardest part has been this summer, trying to juggle a job while the kids are out of school. I’ve cashed in favors with friends left and right. It’s humbling to have to ask for help, but God knows my heart needs some humbling. He’s giving me lots of practice in it.
  • Call it anal-retentive or obsessive-compulsive or whatever you want, but by nature, I’m a task oriented person. For six months, I have literally cried over the fact that my To Do List has been obliterated. There’s no way I can even put a dent in it, because it has grown exponentially. After bemoaning this fact and getting irritated that I. Can’t. Get. Anything. Done. I finally changed my focus and realized God isn’t calling me to balance my checkbook (although that IS important even if it is dreaded); He’s calling me to do KINGDOM WORK instead. When I get wrapped into my little world, I stop and ask myself whether this little tizzy I’m in is furthering His kingdom or mine. Usually, that’s all I need to stop being a whiny baby and get my big girl panties back on.
  • The last lesson is one that I see God’s hand in from the first day of January. Remember when I wrote about picking scripture each year? I had no specific reason for selecting 2 Corinthians 5:7 for 2012. It simply spoke to me and I felt compelled to choose it for this year. I even wrote in that blog post, “I am praying God will whisper it to me throughout the year. When the highs and lows and dark days happen in 2012, I pray He will remind me to live by what my heart believes and not by what my eyes see.” Boy, howdy! God hasn’t been whispering it to me, He’s been shouting: “Walk by FAITH and not by sight, Elizabeth! What you see is a new routine full of questions about how this job is going to work. You worry about whether you can actually perform the job and whether your kids and husband can adapt to these changes. Stop trying to SEE the answers, Elizabeth. Believe me. Trust me. Stop trusting what you see and trust what I tell you instead. I have nothing but goodness planned for you. I chose you for this, and I will equip you with everything you need!”

Oh, He has been faithful in every imaginable way. The last six months happened in a blink of an eye, but they have forever changed my soul and helped me become more like the person He wants me to be. Thank you for leading me, Jesus!

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Hope of Reunion

“In Christ alone my hope is found… And as He stands in victory,/Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me./For I am His and He is mine,/Bought with the precious blood of Christ.”

Without the hope I find in Him, every day would be despair for me. Imagine how it would feel to think there’s nothing left after we die. I would be bereft if I believed I’d never get to see my brother again. Or my mom. Or my dad. But that’s not the way life with Jesus works. I GET TO BE REUNITED. I get to see Him with my own eyes, and feel His arms around me.

To me, these photos are the closest I’ll ever get to experiencing heaven on this side of death. I can only imagine what it will be like to be held this way for eternity.1992-05-30 MAJS Hugs Parents



2004-01-15 ESK hugs MAS


Friday, July 20, 2012

Waiting for Next

_MDS1721My 17-year-old niece is away at a YoungLife camp right now. She has been gone for almost a week, and has two more weeks until her parents pick her up. She’s there on a work crew, making things great for all the other kids who come to enjoy a week at camp. YoungLife has a website where you can view videos from the week at camp, and I’ve been watching a few of them to see what Hannah’s been up to.

I look at these videos, and see kids who are full of such beauty. Yes, I know they are all crazy teenagers and are there to have fun – and hopefully some time with God and their Bibles, etc. – but watching the videos helps me remember  my life at seventeen. I look at the girls in the video, and I see radiance and joy and promise. I’m 95% sure they don’t see that in themselves, because I know at seventeen I sure didn’t. I didn’t see my future laid out before me. I only focused on next and what my life was going to be like when I got out of whatever current stage I was in. I wanted to be on my own, away from Mom and Dad, finding my true love, and starting my life. I didn’t know I had already “started my life” and was fast-forwarding to my future. I didn’t know I would be married four years later, my parents would be divorced, my brother would be dying, and my parents would be fighting cancer and lupus.

I didn’t know the gift I was being given Every. Single. Day.

So I wrote my Hannah a short letter. Honestly, I was writing it to myself at age seventeen, wishing I could speak some truth into that self-focused, unconfident girl. Here’s what I wrote to Hannah/me:


I’ve been watching the video blogs from YoungLife, and realizing what an amazing gift you are living right now, this very moment. Yes, your Aunt Poozie is hokey. And, yes, I can get emotional and cheesy. But I just want to take a moment to tell you these things:

DON’T WAIT. Don’t hold back in life. Jump in with both feet, do things that scare you, and get out of your comfort zone. Reach out to someone you normally wouldn’t talk to. Laugh loudly. Cry. Trust. Pray. Don’t waste a single moment. You will never have another moment like this!

I love you and I’m so proud of you --


And because nobody needs their Aunt Poozie to be a downer in their lives, here’s what I didn’t write but SO wanted to:

The years stretch out ahead of you, and you think there’s a lifetime of them still waiting for you. Oh, sweet girl, you have no idea how everything you’ve ever known will be forever changed in just one more short year. Your focus is on next and what else and once I. You haven’t stopped to look at now and today. Stop! You’re missing it! Today of all days, STOP. Know how quickly life goes from next to I wish I could go back

It was eight years ago yesterday, right about this time, when your mom called me. Grandmama was in the hospital. We had no idea it would be the beginning of her end. She was dying and the years we thought stretched out ahead of us were gone. We had put faith and trust in those years: I thought a little more time would change us, and she and I would one day find common ground again.

Yes. We did find common ground. It was in the ICU of Northside Hospital in Atlanta. Not exactly the next I had in mind. And the one after that? The next next was saying goodbye to my father, your Steeley.

Anything I say to you, my Hannah, is going to fly out of your memory before the vaporous words have left my mouth. You think the same things I thought: awful things happen to other people, not me. If someone had told me at seventeen that the coming years would be so painful, I wouldn’t have believed them anyway. The brightness of my future outshined any imagined darkness coming my way. That is, until next finally came.

Don’t wait ‘til next, Hannah. Live what you can now. Don’t be afraid! It’s so much better than any next you can imagine.

I. Love. YOU!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Sleep Away Camp

We did one of the hardest and best things for my daughter yesterday: we took her to her first extended sleep away camp.

I started attending camp when I was six years old. (And get this: it was for an entire month! I still can’t believe my parents were brave enough to send me away for a month. Or maybe not brave, just desperate for time away from three kids?)

1981-07 EAS Camp CherokeeMy first camp was the same one my brother and sister attended every summer, and I begged my parents to send me to Camp Cherokee. I was finally old enough at age six, and I loved every single minute of it. I loved being able to make my own choices: arts and crafts today or archery? Maybe canoe time after rest time? And I loved “roughing it” by sleeping in a cabin, bathing in the lake, and drinking Bug Juice every day during snack time.

Yes, there were hard moments: I had one of the most vivid nightmares of my life at camp. (It still ranks in my top five worst ever.) And I remember being so homesick. In my little girl mind, I couldn’t imagine any pain in the world worse than being away from Mom, Dad and home. And then an hour later, I would get distracted and move on to the next activity or swim or skit night practice.

Going to camp taught me to be self reliant. It taught me I really could canoe and backpack an entire night’s worth of supplies to a “remote” area for overnight camping. Going to camp taught me choices and consequences are inseparable. It taught me how to make friends with people I wouldn’t normally seek out. It taught me independence from my parents, and gave me freedom I had never before experienced in my life. At camp, I found such incredible joy in receiving mail every day; I still have that joy with mail even today!

I went to camp every single summer until the last summer before my senior year in high school. I didn’t get to spend many summers at Camp Cherokee, but I still went to some sort of camp every year. There were two summers when I went to Girl Scout camp, which I hated. It wasn’t like “real” camp to me (Camp Cherokee), because there were too many rules and not enough freedom. My parents found a new camp for me to attend called Camp Toccoa. It was similar to Cherokee (with one major difference: BOYS!), and I loved it almost as much.

One of the things I always knew I would do as a parent was send my kids away to camp. So last summer, I decided to give Katie a shot at Girl Scout camp. She paired up with a buddy and they did two nights at a camp about an hour away. I think I was more excited about it than she was! When I picked her up after the two days, she said it was a great time. She and her friend sang the awful camp songs they learned, told us about silly stories they heard, and showed us the crafts they made. However, she hated the platform tents they slept in (“There was a big spider!”), and vowed never to go camping again. That’s when I vowed to find one she would really love!IMGP3420

I asked around and some of our friends told us about the camp they attended as children – and now send their own children. (In fact, their 16-year-old daughter is a counselor this week while Katie is there.) The time and the price were all right, and yesterday was the big day.IMGP0478

For the last few days, Katie has been telling people about how excited she is to camp. We arrived and she was happy and picked out a bunk and was ready to go explore. Her friend arrived (the only other person she knew prior to yesterday), and she was excited.IMGP0475

But then nerves crept in out of nowhere, and she started unraveling. She was in the bathroom and a silly problem with the toilet flushing shattered any confidence she had left, and she came unglued. I knew the longer we stayed with her (we were there about an hour and a half), the worse it was going to get. So I put on my brave mommy face and told her it was time for us to go. We gave hugs and said goodbye, and she asked me if I was crying (sweat was running down my face). I told her no (even though I felt like I wanted to!), but it’s okay if she felt sad. I gently directed her to her friend and she started walking away with the friend and the friend’s mom. I got in the car and Dan put it in gear and went about 6 inches when we saw her charge toward the car with her face screwed up into a look of panic. Dan stopped, I got out of the car, and I held her. Then I told him to wait and I walked with her and found her friend (who was also at her parents’ car, begging them to take her home).

I grabbed both their little hands and we walked down the road so the friend’s parents could leave. I found our friend’s daughter (the 16-year-old counselor) and told her the girls needed some love. Then I gave Katie a hug and a kiss, told her I loved her, and walked away. Oh, the pain!

On the drive home, Dan and I talked about being homesick when we were younger. He spoke about being at camp his first time and missing his parents. I told him how desperate I was to go home after my parents drove me from Georgia to Missouri for college. I remember calling home, begging my mom to let me come back for just one weekend instead of having to wait for Thanksgiving break. She said no, and now I know exactly how she felt when she hung up the phone. It’s the same way I felt when I drove away from my baby yesterday afternoon: full of guilt and fear, yet knowing that it’s my job as her mother to prepare her for a life without me.

I am working myself out of a job. It’s heart-wrenching and also so perfectly right.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

June 2012 Review

After last month’s post about my Facebook status updates, I had a brilliant brainstorm: instead of feeling like I’m always behind on the blog, why don’t I write at the end of each month and post highlights from it? It would take some of the pressure off, plus help me feel like I’m still keeping a record of my children’s lives. So here’s a look at this past June.

We started June with a lazy morning at a nearby lake.

Third grade had officially ended for Katie, but that week was the calm before the summer storm (i.e. Mommy’s Calendar Chaos of trying to fit a job, kid day camp activities, and regular life into this new routine). My friend Michelle and I took the kids to dig in the rocky sand with shovels and buckets, and we sat in folding chairs and talked about life. Thank God the sun was out. It’s the only reason we didn’t freeze into popsicles! Even though it was June 1, it was not very warm yet.IMG_1097

The next few weeks of June were filled jam-packed with one of the busiest times at my job: our church’s once-a-year baptism celebration. We had 358 people baptized, and it was one of the most exhausting and fulfilling days I’ve had in a long time. Exhausting because of the emotions and preparations for so many people at church in one day. Fulfilling because I was honored to photograph this:_MDS8144

And this:IMGP9069

And this:IMGP8883

Oh, and be a part of THIS (click on the word “this” to read more details from my friend Gina):IMGP9155

Baptism day was ALSO Father’s Day. And it was ALSO Katie’s 9th birthday. Since it just wasn’t physically possible for me to work from 7:30am until 9:30pm and celebrate all three events in the same day, we made the whole weekend a big celebration. That Friday, we took Katie swimming at our neighborhood pool. She enjoyed hanging out with neighbors and using Daddy as a diving board._MDS7735

Katie also had quite the haul for her birthday. Dan and I gave her a telescope (thanks to a neighbor’s garage sale), Aunt Jen and Uncle Mike gave her a Kindle Touch, and Aunt Mimi and Uncle Wally sent her a Nintendo DSi. This photo shows the moment she opened the DSi. This photo does NOT show Jackson bursting into tears beside her because she got such a great gift and he didn’t. (And for the record, these gifts were all hand-me-downs.)_MDS7778

Saturday morning, we drove into St. Louis to find a bakery we read about in the paper. They make homemade oatmeal cream pies, which is one of Dan’s favorite treats. We bought two cupcakes and two oatmeal cream pies, then found a nearby park to eat them. When we were done, Dan drove back to the bakery to buy eight more cream pies. Yum!_MDS7763

Jackson REALLY wanted to buy Dan a set of Nerf guns for Father’s Day so they could battle with them. So when we got home from the bakery, we opened the Nerf guns and had a war! I love this photo of the kids attacking Dan._MDS7773

June was also the month of day camp chaos. In order to keep the kids occupied while I work, I signed them up for lots of camps, visits with Grandma, Vacation Bible School, and Jackson’s regular Parents Day Out program. One of the cool things Jackson got to do was a two-week-long Safety Camp with the local police department. The kids learned about stranger danger, gun safety, poison control, bike helmet safety, following street signs, they got a visit from animal control, and had snacks and a cool graduation ceremony. It was lots of fun for him._MDS7704

Katie had a Girl Scout milestone in June. She bridged to the new Junior designation, and her troop celebrated with a cookout at a local park._MDS8738

While she’s so busy growing up, there are still moments here and there that remind me she’s still a little girl. This is one of those  moments. She had a neighbor over to play while Jackson napped, and the girls took their dolls to the treehouse to play. I watched them from the kitchen table, and it was one of those moments when my heart poured out gratitude for God. I know a day will come when the dolls aren’t played with anymore. The anticipation of that carved this moment into the memory bank of my soul._MDS8748

The month ended with a birthday celebration for my friend Jennifer. A bunch of us couples surprised her by meeting at her favorite karaoke bar. Four of us five women (except for the chicken in the group) got up to sing “Love Shack.” Ayiyi! It was a fun time, and I learned I’m better at singing karaoke from the table instead of the stage.IMGP0197


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