Monday, May 13, 2013
What an absolute thrill. The 2dance2dream program of Legacy of Hope Austin will be performing in three recitals this spring...and we're throwing one of our own! We would love for you to come celebrate this dream come true. Come cheer on these amazing kids and volunteers on Saturday, June 1st, 2013 at 5 pm at LifeAustin (8901 W. Highway 71, Austin, TX, 78735) for a beautiful evening of dance and joy. The silent auction begins at 4:30 pm and has incredible donated services and products, all of which have been donated specifically to support the vision of 2dance2dream. Many thanks again to our amazing studios who donate space and help make this program possible at The Dance Spot, Balance Dance Studios and LifeAustin. Tickets are free and you can get yours now by going to 2d2dperform.eventbrite.com. We would love to see you there!
Monday, May 6, 2013
Lots of birthdays.
Back in the day, the day of when there were just a couple of OctaProgeny, I used to do birthdays up big. Chuck E Cheese kind of big. McDonalds play land kind of big. Fully themed-out Pocahontas Party in full costumes kind of big.
And then I got tired.
And 'kind of big' got 'kind of expensive' when multiplied by eight.
I decluttered our party life. Simplified, simplified, simplified. Probably a bit too much. We went from party planning for 32 of the birthday kid's closest friends to family parties that involved making a favorite dinner and opening a couple of presents. It worked pretty well except for the photographic evidence that the younger kids found of their older siblings' birthday Pocahontas Party pasts....
...and the fact that many of their buddies were having big blow-out parties.
I think we've landed somewhere in the middle now that is working for us. The kids can have a couple of buddies over. There is some pizza, some juice boxes, some cake. Most importantly for my crew is the piñata portion of the party.
I hope by keeping things simple that the kids can really focus on their friends.
These impromptu parties aren't Pinterest-worthy. At all.
For the twins' party, it came down to some last minute texts to sweet friends, a fast Sam's run for pizza and cake and a gorgeous spring evening...
These gatherings have no stress. There's no 'performance', no heavy list of 'fun' to accomplish. Right now, in this season, it's doable. It's fun. I still have to bat my Mommy Guilt back...it wants to flare into flame when I think on the older kids' parties at the same ages. But that was then. And this is now. And now has a lot more moving parts to it.
These gatherings are a reflection of our life today, just as those more complex parties from yesteryear are a great time capsule of what family life was back then. And at the end of the day, as long as the ingredients of celebration, gratitude, laughter and friends is part of the recipe, it matters not the theme, the cost, the invitation list, the presents.
What always resounds is the joy. And that is more than enough.
Friday, March 22, 2013
'Is a stroke forever?'
She went there.
My 7 of 8. She wandered up to me in the middle of a fairly average day and asked me that question.
She's almost 6 years old now. The stroke she experienced as a baby placed her in physical therapy and occupational therapy for most of her toddler and preschool years. Her left side is the affected side, her left arm and hand compromised and crimped, her left leg lagging a bit in her walk and gait.
Her stroke is no new news for her. We've never shied away from talking about it with her. And someone can't spend the kind of hours on exercises and treatments and stretches that this kid has without being fairly clear on her condition.
And yet it is.
In this way.
She's coming to a greater awareness of the differences she has from her peers. And she's realizing what we had to heartbreakingly accept a while back...
Her left side isn't getting 'better'.
And heavens, she's quite creative in working around the challenge.
The affects of the stroke remain.
The stroke remains.
But I don't ever want her to stop pushing and working. I don't ever want her to think that she is powerless to affect change. And I know a stroke isn't forever. I believe that promise that on some eternal day we will have forms to clothe our souls that are infallible in design and deed and will exist impervious to the grind of gravity and mortality.
There is no night there.
And no strokes. I'm pretty sure.
But this is today.
And on a day not so long ago, she had a stroke.
And the reality of that, of what it means from this point forward, is beginning to illuminate for her.
She's realizing that it's not something like a cold or a tummy bug.
It's not going away.
It's the duality of my role that makes me spin.
I owe this girl the truth.
I owe this girl hope and vision and motivation.
That, short a touch of God or a medical miracle, this stroke is here to stay.
Hope that she will still continue to stretch and work, that her left side may have greater mobility and will serve her well.
I'm still working out that dialog.
So on that fairly average day, in the middle of the day, when she asked me her question, when I went still and silent and I could feel the tick of time's clock...
On that day, I said this:
"This stroke is not forever. One day, when God takes us home with Him, we will all be healed from whatever challenges we have in our bodies. But, for now, this stroke is here. And it's part of your story. And part of who you are. And some days that's hard and it's a part of what makes you special. It's not forever. But it may be for a long, long time."
She considered that.
And stretched her cramped left hand.
And grinned that slightly squinted smile. She wandered off to play.
I went back to my tasks. And let my heart bleed and ache a while longer. And struggled a bit in what I told her.
This stroke may be forever.
In this way.
There's a little piece of her stroke that I suspect may be forever, at least for me. And maybe her. And the rest of our family.
The piece that I suspect may be forever is that her stroke has etched its mark on what I feel is eternal in me, those deep folds of the spirit. It's pushed me to a deeper level of compassion in some areas and conversely made me less compassionate with excuses. Telling her story and the story of other families with children with special needs has become a huge component of my life's work. Advocating for those families makes up much of my heart's beat. That stroke is a huge part of helping me see how an eternal God sees us, that we have our weakness and we need Him to do the things we can't. And He also expects us to keep trying and to keep pressing and to keep stretching, even in our weakness. That stroke put spiritual readers on lines of spiritual truth for me.
That is forever.
And for a stroke or whatever the condition or the heartache or the challenge may be, that is a profound legacy.
Friday, March 8, 2013
I'm very thankful that my kids have a great daddy, a father who is committed to spending time with them, committed to teaching them, committed to being the main man in their lives.
And I have a lot of mama friends who are not in that situation. They have kids who don't have a dad that is involved.
But in both cases, both in families with dads who are in and dads who are out, there is such a powerful opportunity for godly men to speak into the lives of kids, beyond the role of dad.
My brothers, brother-in-law, dad and father-in-law are amazing mentors for my kids. They love them, speak wisdom into their lives, laugh and have fun. But our extended family is not local for us. We treasure and adore every visit and I think we do a good job being in consistent touch.
But just as my kids benefit from having my girlfriends speak into their lives, so to do they benefit by the incredible men we count as friends and mentors.
Mike's incredible friend and business partner, AT, is such powerful influence in our kids' lives. Our youth pastors. The men I work with. Our senior pastor. Our friends.
I hadn't really thought of it much in our early lives, but I see now the critical role that my and Mike's friends play in our children's lives. They aren't just our companions, our confidants, our peers. They are the measure by which our children develop their own friendships and peer groups. They are the measure by which our children evaluate what support groups and fellowship are supposed to look like. And our friends are the people that show my children what healthy and functional adulthood is supposed to look like...or not.
So thankful for the amazing guys who sow into the lives of my guys, extended family, friends, through their friendships with Mike and through the way they show my sons what men are supposed to be.
Friday, February 15, 2013
I have some adult kiddos living in my house now.
And it changes the dynamic. And the chore list. And the usual household hours.
And it's a blast. And sometimes a challenge.
We've got eight kids to college educate and we really want to be able to do that without them taking on education debt ~~or us taking on education debt. Our agreement is that we will take care of in-state tuition but that they will need to work to earn spending money. And if they want to have a nest of their own, we're happy for them. And they'll need to figure out how to pay for that.
1 of 8 did an amazing job doing just that when she flew the coop for Paris and worked as a nanny to take care of her housing while taking classes at the Sorbonne.
When she came back to the States, she kicked around the idea of moving out. But ultimately she decided that she would rather not work as many hours and put her focus on wrapping up her two degrees. We were fine with that idea and she's now in the final couple of semesters of her degrees. It has a been a joy to have her back in the house. I love that her younger siblings have experienced her being at home with us.
2 of 8 is working like a fiend directing 2dance2dream. As the program continues to expand (our third campus is just about to come online!), her hours are crazy. She is also teaching a variety of dance classes across the city and is in demand as a choreographer. She is also a full time college student. While she could probably swing living on her own, she's choosing to be here with us for a while longer as she continues to adjust her work and student life.
3 of 8 has now clicked past the mid-point of his teens. He'll be starting dual credit college classes in the fall. When he hits 18 in a little over a year, it will be interesting to see what he chooses to do next~~continue to hang out here with us for a while longer or take on the responsibility of rent and groceries and utilities.
There are times I glance up at 1, 2, 3 and 4 of 8 standing in the kitchen chatting. To see them all standing there at their adult heights, having adult conversations about work and classes and decisions is just....just....incredible. What is the word? They're grown up. I won't bore you with cliches of 'it happens so fast' and 'just yesterday they were babies'. It is fast but at the same time, it's a long process. It's an amazing season, having these kids in your home, hoping you're infusing them with skill and character and heart.
Household routines are definitely different with adult children in the mix. The kitchen stays in total disarray as it is in constant use between five cooks. The washing machine is running constantly and even though there are theoretical schedules about who should be doing laundry on which days, a last minute date with a cute guy in an Advanced Statistics class necessitates a last minute spin cycle for a favorite shirt and the whole laundry routine gets bumped. And why wash and reuse a cookie sheet when there are eight more in the cabinet? I literally washed our entire collection of cookie sheets the other night...all the other chefs in the house had used them all and then scattered for classes and work and volunteer projects.
It's an area of continued parenting that we haven't figured out yet. We want our big kids to have freedom. We want them to pursue interests and friends. We want their lives to be full and busy. And just like times when my schedule and business and commitments take me to the wire time wise and I leave a dish to wash later and I leave a load sitting in the dryer and I scatter paperwork as I cyclone out the door, so do they. They come in late. They leave early. It's as busy a house as you can imagine. It's messy, noisy, scattered and full. It's wonderful. And it's a challenge.
I don't have a well-honed coping directive at the moment. We're just laughing a lot and trying to give a lot of grace, each to the other. I did figure out a couple of things though. I'll pass them along, for those of you who have kids coming home from college for the summer or for those of you looking into the distant future as you imaging your toddlers becoming big kids.
This past Christmas, each of the big kids received a kitchen 'kit'. It has a skillet, spatula, coffee mugs and plates, all of the same color for each kid. 1 of 8 has red, 2 of 8 purple, 3 of 8 blue, 4 of 8 orange and 5 of 8 green. There is no question anymore as to who got out which pan or mug or cooking utensil. It's solved and resolved a little bit of our kitchen chaos.
And after this week's monster cookie sheet clean up, I've arrived at this...I'm hiding all the cookie sheets but one. Yep. One cookie sheet to rule them all.
That's all I've got for now, folks. Just an elementary intro to this unique season. But never fear. I'm paying attention. I'm learning. And I love that there is always something new to learn, something new discover in this amazing calling called parenting....
Tuesday, February 12, 2013
Post Immerse Post?
Yeah. I'm still sleep deprived. And a little punchy.
So this past Friday was the Big Night.
It takes every minute we give to it for the year to pull it off. And it's worth it.
This year we were thrilled to have Natalie Grant, Anita Renfroe and Candace Cameron Bure. Yep. It was pretty much completely and totally awesome.
Anita Renfroe. Anytime, anywhere, I will go listen to that gal. And laugh. And laugh. And laugh. I lurve her. Deeply.
Our 2dance2dream dancers performed this year. It is such a thrill to see these amazing kids perform on the Immerse stage.
They brought the house down again this year.
Natalie Grant did her thing. Her incredible thing. Her 'sing from the bottom of her heart 'til it fills yours' kind of a thing.
That kind of a thing.
And Candace Cameron Bure? What a delight. What a powerful message. What a doll.
It's so inspiring to to hear someone who is continuing to perform and excel in Hollywood while holding fast to her faith and beliefs.
And Amy Byrd from Spirit 105.9 was on hand to kick off the evening. What a precious person~~she is much beloved in our ATX community.
I could go on and on and on. It's just such a magical night, such a powerful swirl of ministry and heart and inclusion of some amazing kids. I posted last year that it has become, for me, The Why Moment. And that still remains the personal experience.
But, of course, it's so much bigger than just my perspective. It was incredible to hear the stories from this year's attendees, to know that song and message and laughter spoke to them right in their moment, right into their lives. We're prayerfully gearing up again to plan toward 2014 and I feel more keenly than ever the mystery that what we'll be planning right now will somehow miraculously speak its way into women's hearts this time next year.
Many thanks to all who attended, volunteered, performed, spoke, sang, laughed, cheered, danced. You are amazing.
Saturday, February 9, 2013
~What an amazing, beautiful night~
~Anita Renfroe, Candace Cameron Bure, Natalie Grant~
~many thanks to all of you who came out, who sang and cried and laughed and clapped and showed such big Austin Texas Love for these amazing gals~