A new season

My Pop Pop, with McKinzi, Lake and Tucker, and myself.

Last week, the kids and I dropped everything and drove 16+ hours to Franklin, PA with my parents in two different cars to assist with my grandfather, Pop Pop’s, future.

He was by the court system in April for observation after it was determined that he may not be able to care for himself any longer. The courts had to get involved because my grandfather is an extremely private, stubborn and independent man who does not believe he needs a guardian.

A week ago today, there was another hearing to determine his future. The hospital had determined officially that he has dementia (something I’ve thought all along) and that it will only progress worse. This diagnosis joins a host of other medical issues he has. In the end, it was determined that his three children (my dad and his two sisters) would be his guardians and that he would move to Kansas and live with my parents. This was not taken well by my Pop Pop, initially.

So, a week later, we’ve survived the three days of cleaning up his life in Pennsylvania, driving two days to Kansas and the first two days of his new season here. Our new season.

And so far so good, I am pleased to report.

My grandfather’s condition had often times led to him being verbally abusive, non-trusting and even paranoid of people, my father in particular. During our first sit-down visit with him, things got a little heated. McKinzi was there to hear everything. Later that night, I took her aside and let her know that if she had any questions about anything that happened, to just let me know. She said she didn’t have any questions, but that she did have some things to say. In a nutshell, her little eight-year old mind was so observant and perceptive. She grabbed onto, in those few minutes, so easily the issues that have been plaguing our family and extended family in the seven years since my grandmother passed. I was amazed at how grown up my little girl seemed in those few moments.

I was awestruck when at the end she asked to pray for my grandfather and my father and his sisters. I was dumbstruck when she asked to lead the prayer. So standing there in the lobby of a tiny family restaurant, me and my big girl knelt on our knees and I heard one of the most beautiful prayers ever uttered. Beautiful not because of the eloquence of the words, but because my daughter saw a moment, saw people who needed no other than God’s help and she went on her knees to the only One who can do the healing.

I prayed a lot on the drive out to Pennsylvania. I did a lot of praying during our visitation with my grandfather. I prayed even more while the hearing was occurring and I couldn’t stop praying once it was determined he was going to come home to Kansas.  But I think it was the prayers of one little eight-year old that was heard the most.

Because so far, there has been some healing. There is still obviously a long road to go, new routines to work out, a new normal for everyone, and of course my grandfather will likely not get better. But things are going far better than I believe anyone anticipated, and I have to include myself.

My grandfather is certainly enjoying being around the kids. I can’t wait for him to meet my nieces Ella and Anna and to meet my nephew Jake who is due next month. To be around such happiness surely has to be breathing new life into him. The girls were so excited he was moving back here with us that they wrote him letters and cards and have been so good about helping him move around. Tucker can’t stop saying Pop Pop as though he’s known him all his life.

I know the last seven days can’t erase all of the hurt of the last seven years nor can it dim the memory of the last sixty years. Us grandkids have great memories of our grandfather.  But we have come to learn over the last few years that we were shielded from a lot of the not-so-nice things, as well. But I’m praying that for the rest of the time we’re granted to spend with Pop Pop, our opportunity to build some new, better memories will exceed our highest expectations. Because God can do anything, and I was reminded about that this week by McKinzi.

Happy Birthday to my little man!

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Two years ago today our family was blessed with Tucker, truly, truly blessed.

The last two years have seen a lot of changes in Tucker. He slept through the night on the first night home (I know you’re jealous) and continues to sleep very, very well to this day. He was such a quiet baby that Mark actually forgot him several times in the car (he’ll be disconcerted that I posted this!). He cut teeth at about 6 months, walking at about 10 and now he’s running just about everywhere, especially if he thinks you’re going to make him come in from outside.

We’ve had to baby-proof the house for the first time in three kids because he is into EVERYTHING! Our main bathroom toilet is having issues draining properly because we think there’s a matchbox car stuck in the pipes. We’re going to be putting special locks on the back sliding glass door because he is always trying to go out to the deck. We’re going to put a special lock on the deck gate because he’s already figured out how to open it and head down to the yard, and we’re going to put a special lock on the fence gate because he already knows how to open that and head out in the wide, wide world. And he’s so quiet, you wouldn’t even know that he’s gone until it’s too late.

We’ve lost him already once in a crowd because he just decides to take off whenever he wants.

He tests every boundary of the lines we set.

He is stubborn, can be whiny when he doesn’t get his way, and he is the most dramatic of our children (yes, even more than Lake!) Speaking of Lake, we thought she was a chatterbox when she was his age. He puts her to shame. And like Lake, there is no volume control on him. It’s either loud, or off.

But most of all, he’s our clown. McKinzi like’s to play tricks on people, like her mother. Lake is like her father and doesn’t like tricks being played on people. Tucker, that is yet to be determined where he stands in the gags discussion, but he sure knows how to make people laugh, and it’s all intentional. He’ll wear things, do things, say things just to get a laugh. And if you’re laughing and he’s not around, he comes running just to join in the laughing. He loves to laugh, he loves the sound of laughter. He should have no problem with the ladies when he gets older, because he’s got the looks, he treats me well and he’ll be able to make them laugh! Isn’t that all we really want, girls?

He’s into cars, trucks, planes and mostly trains. He loves to make beep beep and choo choo noises. Thomas the Train and Lightning McQueen are his favorite but nothing holds a candle to Linny and Ming-Ming from the Wonder Pets. They are his best friends.

He loves shoes and he loves hats. And occasionally, he loves a little of his sisters’ bling.

He gets along great with other kids, and shares really well. He can be a little rough, but he immediately says I’m Sorry when he knows he’s hurt you. His first words were Thank You, and he quickly added Please, You’re Welcome and now Excuse Me to the repertoire. He loves when his sisters come home from school and he’s the first to run to Daddy when he comes home from work. When Mommy comes home from even the shortest trip to the grocery store, he comes running up and holds my legs and says, “You’re Home, Yayyyyyy!”

It really hit home to me yesterday just how blessed I am to have a son. As we were heading into the church to pick Lake up from dance class, Tucker wanted to climb up on the raised wall next to the steps and walk up to the door that way, just like he sees his sisters do every time we head to the church. So he climbed up there and I started to back away, thinking my little mister independent wouldn’t want my help. But before he took even one step, he held out his little hand and said, “Mommy, ha-a-nd!” I gladly obliged, and then escorted him along the wall to the landing in front of the doors. In the time it took to walk that 20 or so feet, my mind flashed forward to a time in the not too distant future when one day my son will be extending his hand to me, but not for me to help him up the stairs, but rather for him to guide me. What an awesome feeling it was! I’ve got my girls, yes, and I know they would do anything for me. But there’s just such a wonderful, feel good in the gut feeling I get whenever I think about how one day in the future Tucker will take care of me.

The last two years have given me deep appreciation for the relationship between a son and his mother and I can’t imagine what my life would have been like without my little T-bone.

Happy Birthday, son. You are loved beyond measure!

Here's Tucker hours after he was born....sleeping soundly, which is what he did much of his first 9 months!

At his first birthday party last year

Today with Momma!

We have a garden!

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This spring, the Sowles family has planted its first garden. I’ve wanted to have a garden ever since we bought the house, but honestly, with three dogs (and one of them a big ‘un) there really wasn’t a good place to stake out 80 square feet. We tried container gardening. Didn’t go so well. We tried hanging plants. Nope. Everything we did was an epic fail (and mostly because of our black thumbs and super busy lifestyle). But the dream was always there.

Last summer we built a deck that necessitated the move of our shed to another part of the yard, otherwise I would have been subject to many head bumping episodes while trying to put the lawn mower away. Last fall our big dog had to be put to sleep. So, this spring we decided now is the time! The space our shed had previously occupied was perfect for a garden. The remaining two dogs were small enough that a little fence would keep them out.

So the Sowles’ made a list of all the things we’d like in our garden. Lake of course wanted blueberries and strawberries and red and yellow cherry tomatoes. McKinzi wanted green beans and carrots and just about anything that she’d be able to harvest on her own. Mommy wanted tomatoes and green peppers so I can make tons of Grandma Sowles’ chili sauce. Daddy would have been happy with no garden, though he’s looking forward to all the fresh produce! Tucker loves that he gets to play while the rest of us work!

That all being said, I had no idea how to do a garden. So this winter, I started doing research online. I even found a website that will help you plan your garden, which was IMMENSELY helpful. But then we had a mild winter and spring came early, totally throwing us off our game. It started getting hard, and as I am sometimes prone to do when I can’t be an expert at something, I was so tempted to just scrap the garden idea once again. I just didn’t know what to do. I didn’t realize how much hard work it was going to be.

Mark to the rescue. It’s been cool working with him on the garden, picking out the items, watching the kids together as they discover new seedlings sprouting up and fruit blossoms starting to bear fruit. But what is even cooler is learning something new about my husband. We will have been married 12 years this June, together for nearly 14. In all that time, I have NEVER known that my husband took a horticulture class in high school. Now mind you, he doesn’t profess to be an expert by any stretch of the imagination, but he knew more than I had even learned doing my internet research. I had no clue that one carrot plant purchased at the nursery would yield exactly one carrot. I thought we could plant two or three carrot plants and voilà! at harvest time we’d have a basket full of carrots. Same thing with cabbage and lettuce and all those other veggies.

I had no clue that we needed to build up our rows and create troughs for some of the seeds. I still don’t understand since apparently they get washed down into the trough (which I’m sure is why they recommend starting the seeds indoors, but we didn’t have time for that with the early start to spring). But Mark knew that’s what to do.

He knew we had to till the soil. I didn’t. I thought you would just dig a hole and plant the plant. Hah! What would I know.

But it’s been fun watching him be the gardener. I’ve just been following his lead.

I suppose it’s a lot like our relationship with God. Sometimes things seem hard, and we’re tempted to give up. But even though we’re not the experts on life, He is. We don’t know what He will do, but if we just step back and let Him guide our ways, we can reap an awesome harvest in the end. (Well, let’s see if our black thumbs will stay away). I could have totally ignored the fact that Mark knew more than me about this gardening business. I could have said, “I’ll work this out on my own.” And you know what, our garden would have been an epic fail, too … if it had even gotten planted.

But God doesn’t deliver failures. He delivers people FROM failures. And so God gave me my husband, and helped still the shouting voice inside of me that kept urging me to quit.

I am so thankful for my husband. I’m thankful that even though he could care less about having a garden, he’s doing a bunch of the hard laborious work that needs to be done. He’s the one slowing down and teaching the girls things. (I’m listening carefully because I’ve found that I don’t know a lot of the things he’s teaching them either). When the girls ask me why, or how, I simply state, let’s ask Daddy. I like that Daddy can be the expert in our house, too. It makes me feel all gooey inside, and it’s nice to know that it makes him feel good, too.

I know he’s not God, so the analogy isn’t perfect. And we may not avoid that epic fail this year, but I have a feeling that with Mark leading the way and God controlling the cycles of life growing in our garden and our home, we will probably learn a lot more to take into next season, and maybe, just maybe, be able to harvest something! We can’t kill everything can we?

So, that’s what we’re up to this summer. Our first garden. I’ll keep you posted. If you’ve got any gardening tips, feel free to share them!

Getting ready for the week ahead

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This is our Toadie. Well, a partially done Toadie. (Don’t know what a Toadie is? Here’s Disney’s version.

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This week, Lake starts her third stage production at Trilogy Cultural Arts. This time it’s Sleeping Beauty. Essentially, a Toadie is a dumb bad guy, the ones who follow the villainous Malificent around and who are, well, rather dumb. Evil, but dumb. She also was a very important squirrel in The Chronicles of Narnia and an adorable townsperson in Beauty and the Beast. She’ll also be a Munchkin in The Wizard of Oz in May (along with her daddy, who will be the Cowardly Lion).

So Saturday, we spent some time at Trilogy learning how to do the makeup for her Toadie. We only did half the face, but you get the idea.

Friday was the start of a crazy week for Lake and the Sowles family. She had Sleeping Beauty rehearsal for three hours Friday night, had the makeup session Saturday morning, three hours of Wizard rehearsals Saturday afternoon and another three hours of Sleeping Beauty Saturday night. Mark’s been at Trilogy ever since church ended this morning helping complete sets and then Lake was back at rehearsals at 4 until 9:30 tonight. She’ll be back there Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday for rehearsals from 4 to 930 and then shows start Thursday night, two on Friday and three on Saturday.

In the middle of all this, we’ve still got our normal schedule going on. McKinzi has gymnastics, I’ll have signings, McKinzi has Brownies and of course there’s Tucker, who isn’t exactly the most easy child anymore. He’s already begun the terrible twos and his second birthday isn’t for another few weeks!

I know this all seems crazy sometimes, and I know I complain sometimes about the hectic part of this, but the truth is, I love doing something for my kids that they enjoy. Lake absolutely LOVES the theater. She actually backed out of a Father/Daughter date dance because she didn’t want to miss rehearsal. She’s had the opportunity to leave early a few times because her character was no longer needed and she begged to stay. She turned down the chance to do Donuts with Dad at her school this week because she didn’t want to be late for a show.

Yes, she’ll be tired each morning. Yes, the attitude will be a little on the unacceptable side because of the lack of sleep. And I’ve been through this a few times now. I know what to expect, so I’m prepared and we’ll head off that sleep deprivation every chance we get.

But she is learning valuable lessons that she really needs to learn. She is learning responsibility. She is learning about preparation. She is learning about teamwork. She is learning that sometimes doing what we love means sacrificing other things. She is learning that her family will support her. She is learning that the world doesn’t revolve around her. She is learning that theater is a way to share God’s story. And I love Trilogy. It’s a Christian environment, with Christian leaders. Most of the other kids are Christian as well, and the way the older kids help lead and mentor the younger ones is priceless. I couldn’t have asked for a better organization for her to be a part of.

I love watching her interact with her theater friends, but more than that, I love watching her explain what theater is to her non-theater friends. We picked up McKinzi from a sleepover Saturday morning after the makeup session, make up still on and all. Some of the kids didn’t know what to think, and they asked her why she was doing that. She was so kind, explaining what a play is and why she does it and how fun it is, then she let everyone try on her snout. When one little boy sniffed it then threw it, she politely explained how that was rude and that costumes should be respected … (a lesson she had learned herself an hour ago when she tossed her snout across the room!)

I thank God for her talent of singing and drama because it makes our life so interesting. I thank God for McKinzi’s talent of gymnastics because she’s so awe-inspiring. I thank God for whatever Tucker’s hidden talent is (I’m hoping for baseball!)

And more than that, I just thank God for whatever talents and skills he blesses us ALL with, each and everyone. We all have our own role to play, and He didn’t design us to be toadies.

Going back to where it all started

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This week, we’re taking the a family road trip. It’s not our first as a five-person clan, as we went to Michigan to visit Mark’s grandparents two summers ago when Tucker was just a baby who slept all the time. This, however, will be a longer trip and Tucker is now a rambunctious nearly two-year old. I’m not quite sure how it’s going to go, so your prayers for our sanity are certainly welcome!

Where are we going, you ask? Well, we’re headed back to where it all began. Mark and I met in El Paso, Texas on October 28, 1998. The photo above isn’t the very first picture of us together, but it’s one of the firsts. Look how young my hot hubby looks! So glad he got rid of that cheesy beard though! 

It will be fun to walk down memory lane with my husband, and share with our kiddos a bit of our past. My parents used to do that with us once in a while when we went to visit my grandparents in New York, and I loved hearing the stories. I hope our little ones do, too!

Please pray for me … I had a very traumatic experience in El Paso 13 years ago next month. I don’t know if it’s because I’m going back for the first time in 8 years or what, but I’ve been reliving that experience a lot lately … in my memories and my dreams (or nightmares). I’ve laid it all at God’s feet, knowing that he holds each of us in our hands, and I’ve been praying on Isaiah 43:18-19 the last few days, “Do not call to mind the former things, Or ponder things of the past. Behold, I will do something new, Now it will spring forth; Will you not be aware of it? I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, Rivers in the desert.”

And so I haven’t been dwelling on it, and each day my apprehension grows a little less. I thank God for that. And since we’re going to El Paso, where the desert is everywhere, I can’t wait to see what rivers He has in store for us!

Honestly, Honesty!

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Here’s a recent conversation that took place in the Sowles Caboose (otherwise known as our minivan).

McKinzi: Ooh, look at the moon, it is soooooo cool!

Mommy: Wow, it is pretty! Do you see the Man in the Moon?

McKinzi and Lake: Where????

Mommy proceeds to point it out.

McKinzi: Oooh, I see it! Oh, I have a great idea! Maybe we can pray to God and ask him on Halloween to make the moon look like it has bats and a witch flying in front of it!!!! Isn’t that a great idea??

Lake: That won’t work, McKinzi (said with full teenage confidence, though she’s only 5!)

Mommy: What do you mean it won’t work, Lake? (Worried that she might think that praying doesn’t work).

Lake: It never works.

Mommy: What never works, honey?

Lake: You don’t know what I’m talking about.

Mommy: You’re right, babe, that’s why I’m asking what you’re talking about. (Here I reiterate the above conversation and get to the point where I say: That’s why I’m asking for you to tell me what you’re talking about).

Lake: You just don’t know what I’m talking about, Mommy. (Said in total frustration, a little whining, and definitely some (pre-, pre-, pre-)teenage angst.)

And then she practically screams, I DON’T EVEN KNOW WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT!

After controlling my laughter, I decided the conversation was over. We were LONG past figuring out what she meant.

But it got me to thinking — what if more people were honest about when they don’t know what they’re talking about?

Laugh of the Day!

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I’m thinking about scheduling a day for my blog to post something funny seen during the week. I’ve got to give it more thought, but either way — you have to see this, which is just wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong. But so right to pass on! Enjoy!

Rule No. 75

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Warning! Possible TMI Alert! …. I grew up in a house of five females 5 days out of the week. My dad travelled so much, he was only around on weekends for the most part. Shutting the bathroom door when doing #1 was generally optional in our house.  Fast forward 25 years and I still find that habit hard to break (unless company is over, of course!). But a year or so ago, we began teaching the girls about “privacy.” They were getting old enough that we don’t want them running naked through the house, peeing in front of boys, and now that we have our own little boy in the house, it’s time we ALL learned some modesty. Mommy included. (Don’t worry, Daddy ALWAYS had modesty!)

But the other day, I forgot. I had to go sooooooooooooooooooo bad! The girls were in the den watching TV and I came running in to our spare bathroom next to the den, sat down and started, well, peeing. Lake comes over to the door and says — “Rule No. 75, Mommy! Shut the door when you’re going to the bathroom!” And then shuts the door. I don’t know what stunned me more …. that I got reprimanded or that I got reprimanded with a RULE! She taught me a few more random rules later that day, but I was honestly laughing so hard, I don’t remember them.

I hope Lake stays on this Rule kick for a while. This could be good fodder for the blog. Stay tuned!

Our trip to the Kansas State Fair

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Mark and I had never been to the Kansas State Fair. We decided back in May to take the girls this year. But not because of the Fair. That was just an extra thing we would be able to do. No, we were going to see BIG TIME RUSH. If you’re not familiar with them, they’re a boy band in the style of the Monkees, developed for TV (Nickelodeon) but branching out on tour. Lake is in love with the lead singer, Kendall Schmidt, who just so happens to be from Andover, KS. McKinzi kind of likes James, but not as much as the other pop singer whose initials are J.B. (Justin Bieber).

The girls have been to a couple of concerts with Dad already, Stellar Kart and Switchfoot, both of which McK thoroughly enjoyed but Lake only tolerated. This is her first concert where she REALLY likes the band. And she sure did show us how to rock it. OK, maybe Mommy showed her first. But this was MY first concert with the girls and I was bound to make sure they knew that I was cool once, too. 🙂

Before the Fair, we camped out at Council Grove Lake. we found a site away from everyone and right along the water. We stayed dry until late at night a heavy rain moved in. Inside our tent, we were good. Outside, we got wet. It was a great camping experience that we all enjoyed.

And the fair? It was cool. Except for the expensive food and the expensive rides and all the other expensive things that kept making us say “No” to the girls. So, we’re trying to budget a trip to Worlds of Fun at some point in the future. If we’re going to spend that much money on rides, we’ll do it somewhere much more fun.  I mean, seriously, $3.75 per ride or $25 per person for an unlimited pass? When did these things get so expensive?

Oh, but the $7 Mark spent on a Red Velvet Funnel Cake — definitely worth it.

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I’m not my mom … yet

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Every day I find myself doing things more and more like my mom. That’s not a bad thing, mind you. But, 15 years ago, it certainly would have been! I find myself saying things she said that I swore I would never say, like “Because I said so” or “Don’t make me pull over the car!”

I find myself organizing the house like she did, or having those annoying habits she had, like how the house had to be perfectly clean before you leave town. (Which now it’s much more annoying when I leave town WITHOUT a perfectly clean home.)

But I can tell you with certainty that I am not my mother, yet. You see, she makes the best twice-baked potatoes. The best. I love them. I have always loved them. And I cannot, for the life of me, replicate them. I made attempt number three about a month ago. Starchy, melty mess. God bless my family, because they ate them, but I was so disappointed. I thought I had figured it out. Despite several calls to my mom during the cooking process they were still absolutely gross!

Fast forward to Thursday night. I was determined to get it right. I ALMOST didn’t call my mom this time, only because I wanted to do it myself. But my desire for actually tasting yummy goodness overcame my desire to be independent and I did call her. Didn’t really need to though, because everything I thought I was supposed to do I was doing. But it was nice to have the confirmation.

All that and they STILL didn’t come out right. But I’m pleased to say they were fairly good, and no starchy, glumpy mess. And they weren’t worse than other batches I’ve had that other people have made, so I figure most people would have enjoyed them. But they still weren’t my mothers. ;( They didn’t have her magic touch, I suppose, but the good news is that I’m getting closer!

But I have to say, that no matter when I manage to replicate her twice-baked potatoes, I will never be the mother my mom is, because she is the absolute best.

I love you, mommy!