Tuesday, July 31, 2012

And then there was a knot.

When Ben got a major hair cut earlier this month, the scar at his hairline was more visible. It happened a day before the hair cut when we were at Venture River water park with friends. I was sitting in a tube and Ben was in my lap as we went down a slide. Somehow the momentum pushed us forward without our tube when we were a little ways down. I managed to hold on to Ben and get us back on the tube to finish the slide into the small pool of water.

I didn't realize until later that Ben's head must had scrapped against the slide because he had a wound on his forehead.

Fast forward three weeks later. While walking up to the same slide on Friday, Ben said, "No hurt head."  He remembered. Of course, my mom and I reassured him that he'll be fine this time. We'd gone down it multiple times that first day before our bumpy trip down, so I was confident odds were in our favor.

So my mom -- better known these days as Grandmom -- was rolling a huge family tube up the hill to the top of the slide when it accidentally fell away from her and knocked Ben into a concrete wall. As soon as he came out from beneath the fallen tube, a bloody knot appeared on his forehead. Never have I seen a knot show so quickly.

My instinct was to get ice so I took off, with Ben in my arms, to the concession stand. I saw a first aid sign along the way and then spotted a life guard, who led me to the first aid area. The kind lady there cleaned it and told me when her boy was little the doctor told her knots that popped out were better than ones that didn't because they relieve internal pressure. And the blood was coming out, not staying in. Still. Of all Ben's scraps and bruises and burns, this one scared me the most. And it was right on top of his already existing scar.

But he's brave, I tell you. After some cuddles and reassurance, Ben went back down the same slide.

Thankfully, the knot went down overnight. A bruise remains under the scar on his forehead. But, really, what are the chances a boy hurts is head in the same exact place twice while at the same water slide?! Leave it to my boy to make it happen. Perhaps I do need to buy some more of that anti-scar cream.

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Monday, July 30, 2012

The Good Life ... in a swim dress

I could live in my swim suit ... er ... swim dress. I put it on Friday morning while getting ready to spend the day at Venture River water park and it was still damp from Thursday afternoon at the public pool. Oh, Summer, how I love you. What a joy to have two consecutive water days. Seriously, give me a slightly damp swim suit ... er ... dress. I'd spend my summer in it if I could.

Knowing this, you're probably not surprised to hear my heart is so, so, so happy to see my kids swimming.


A couple weeks ago, Cate was flopping around in water that didn't cover her was. Then in a matter of a couple trips to the pool within days of each other, she was swimming in that same shallow water. Now she's working on breathing without touching the bottom of the pool so she can move to deeper water. I think she's going to do it this summer. We've got 2 1/2 weeks before school starts. {Have I mentioned she's going to kindergarten?!} Really, it's fine if she doesn't conquer the deep end this summer; no pressure from her momma. But, admittedly, I love watching her progress now that she wants to. It's been egged on by some older friends who don't use life jackets while jumping off the diving board. I just remind her that she's close to being there. And then she pulls her goggles over her eyes and tries again.

Meanwhile, Ben keeps his eyes open when he puts his head in the water and kicks and reaches and swims. He wears a life jacket, but that doesn't slow him or take away any of his confidence.

My kids are like fish. And I don't mind because, you know, I could live in my swim suit ... er ... dress.

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Sunday, July 22, 2012

Soaking, breathing, changing, living

I haven't taken many pictures lately or written many words. I've been soaking up the days before my girl goes to kindergarten.

We've been to the pool. Cate likes to "swim" without floats where she can touch. I use swim loosely because she hops around more than anything, although this weekend she was swimming underwater pretty well. Meanwhile, Ben is like a fish ... in a floatie.

I've pushed the kids {all 77 combined pounds plus the stroller} as I've tried to learn to like to run. Listening to Needtobreath helps. Of course, I ... need ... to ... breath ... when I run, even on these past few "cooler" Kentucky mornings.

They kids have played while I caught up with friends and they've played together for stretches without arguing and bickering while I organize random areas of the house. I keep making these messes to get to tidy. Like so much in life, it's a process. 

Cate picked out school supplies and new shoes while we ran some errands a couple days ago.

And I've been mentally gearing up for setting an alarm and waking my daughter up five out of seven days for the first time in almost five years. There was a short stretch of about three months when Cate was a baby that I had to be at work at 7 a.m. But then I quit that job and threw myself fully into this one. And the season around here is changing. It's mostly exciting.

But I don't want to wish these days away because I sense them flying by ...


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Monday, July 16, 2012


Ben's creation on his floor ...  
Along with the Aquafor, Aveeno, Balmex and Calmoseptine squeezed all over himself and into the carpet, my 2 1/2-year-old Ben finished off the tube of Mederma. My first instinct was to put the gel that is supposed to reduce scars on my shopping list. My all-boy, curious, adventurous son has a scar on his forehead from when he and I fell out of a tube on a water slide recently and on his thigh from where he was burned by a just-out-of-the-oven pizza

Surely a boy like this needs expensive scar-diminishing cream.


But isn't this going to be the last time he'll scar. He likes sticks and rocks. He's not afraid of anything. He climbs and jumps and runs and puts his Crocs on the wrong feet regularly. He's messy and quick and curious.

He's going to have more scars. Plenty more you'll be able to see and likely ones tucked inside his heart. That's part of truly living. And, boy, does my boy know how to live. He's only 31 months and 23 days old, yet I have no doubt he's going to make an impact wherever he goes. It's hard to miss he's coming.

I posted that picture of his creamy creation on Facebook after I discovered it on his floor Friday morning. There were all sorts of comments about the specific products and my always-into-something son. Someone even wished me luck getting the creams out of his carpet. I decided we'll just have to recarpet Ben's room ... when he goes to college.

Until then, he'll have stories to share, memories worth treasuring, and plenty of scars to show for it. Perhaps I don't need to waste my money on any cream to make them disappear.


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Friday, July 13, 2012

Together in the rain

These kids were so excited to see their preschool teacher after two months away from her. And, thing is, they aren't preschoolers anymore. They're {almost} kindergartners. That's something to celebrate ... even in the rain.

We've had such dry, hot weather ... until this week when some relief came. There have been storms that have teased farmers with small amounts of rain. Temperatures have cooled slightly, but there's still the familiar sticky, humid Kentucky summer air. But then today the clouds hovered with a constant, soft, soaking rain. I'm sure the farmers rejoiced.

And so did these kids.

They were happy to be together. They were excited to revisit their before-lunch prayer-song. Their younger siblings were happy to see their teacher too. There were hugs and stories and missing teeth.

The {almost} kindergartners and a few younger siblings didn't care their party at the park was on the rainy day farmers have been praying for. They just played. In the rain.

Ben dumped the bubbles into the puddle, and then popped them.
"I dig dirt." Appropriate shirt, huh?

They had mud between their toes and evidence of pizza and cooking icing around their mouths. There was much laughing and chasing and hugging and taking and eating and playing. And we all left with full hearts and damp hair.


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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Believe it. Live it.

James and I have been spending much time together. So much so, I ripped a page of his letter while turning back and forth so much. And if I did that to my Bible, can you imagine what those words are doing to my heart?!



And it's just what I needed, even though it's not easy.

Consider trials joy. Persevere. 

Be slow to anger. Be quick to listen. Be slow to become angry. Do what the word of God says. {Oh, goodness, is that ever some truth my life needs.}

Don't show favoritism. Show mercy. 

What is faith without deeds?

Tame my tongue because where it goes, the rest of me goes.

Be wise, and wise people are peacemakers.

Draw near to God. Be humble. Realize we're not in control.

Be patient.

Basically, James reminds me {and that's putting it nicely!} that God wants me to live out my faith with my hands and my feet and my words and my actions and my attitudes and my relationships and my decisions and my whole entire life. Believe it. And then do it. Every day, regardless of what circumstances come my way. 

OK, that's all true and good. And life happens. And that's where it's hard.

But that's where I am. I'm trying to let God change my heart while I do laundry, make dinner, support my husband, train my kids, play with my kids, live in community with my friends, run errands, and clean my house.

I feel like I'm on the brink of changing, but then right as I begin to take a step forward, I stumble backward. I let my frustrations with Greg come out as harsh words. I let my frustrations with my kids come out in a tone I want to take back. I speak my opinions too quickly. I set my expectations too high.

Yet I keep reading James and thinking about how these truths he has written apply to my life. And then devotions and blog posts and conversations are keeping my mind there, in truths that will change my life. Without a doubt, God is stirring something in me, and I'm trying to hang on to get there. With Him. I know I'll be better off for it. And so will the people around me.

Speaking of the people around me, part of my thought process has been with mothering. It's hard work, this training and teaching and mothering and caring and preparing and repeating and nurturing. I'm exactly where I want to be and where I believe God wants me to be, but that doesn't take the work out of it.

Thankfully, just when I was ready to cry out my inadequacies and failures, I was reminded that this work isn't meaningless and it's part of a process. James talks about perfection, not in our please-everyone, clean-everything, always-succeed way, but rather perfection as a process to made mature and complete by God's standards.
"So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless." {1 Corinthians 15:58}

"And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns." {Philippians 1:6}
That's James' friend Paul talking to a couple Greek churches and, ultimately, us. Paul preaches much about grace. And while James seems to be caught up in works, they two men from the early church really complement each other. This life we're living is meant to glorify God. We'll never be perfect but we are being perfected. This faith we have is meant to be shared and acted upon.  
"James' concept of Christian wholeness is also firmly rooted in the One God. To live a life of perfection is not to make all A's or to never miss a Sunday at church; rather, it is to live a life true to our identity as children of an utterly untemptable God who never changes, shows no partiality, and has no darkness in Him at all." {Melissa Fitzpatrick in "James: Mercy Triumphs" by Beth Moore}
 So believe it. And live it. {I'm telling myself this and letting you listen in!}

Live it even on the days when your 2 1/2-year-old son accidentally locks himself in his bedroom just before you need to walk out of the house to get to the Bible study on James on time. {And, really, by "your" I mean "mine," but I guess I'm hoping I'm not alone in these moments!} Then when I do make it to the van with both my kids, I realize Ben has put his shoes on himself. Hooray for independence! Perfection is coming!

Live it when just as you're exchanging high fives with the same boy because he peed in the potty for the first time, he then pees larger amounts all over the rug as soon as he steps foot back on the floor.

Live it when the same sweet boy squeezes a nearly full tube of expensive scar reduction cream all over his legs. Granted, his left thigh is one of the places that needs said cream. But, still, the excessive one-time application isn't what I intended.

Live it when the adventurous, fearless boy {last Ben-induced example ...} takes apart the air conditioning vent and some loses/hides the vent cover, leaving an open air duct large enough to house plenty of small toys.

Live it when plans change and when loved one disappoint and when strangers don't move fast enough and when milk spills and when you're ready for a new day. I'm learning those new days always come, but God is with us before they do. And, really, he wants us to come out of the day changed so we can be more aware of the people around us because to believe in God and his words is to live those words out.


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Monday, July 9, 2012


I had an arm full of towels while I was getting the lake house ready for renters before we hosted our own Fourth of July parties {Yes, two, in one day, that's how we do it around here!} when the phone rang. "The phone" in this instance refers to the corded landline that is available at The Gathering Place because cell signals can be flaky around Kentucky Lake. Because my hands were full and the phone was down a flight of stairs, I yelled to my 5-year-old daughter who will talk to anyone, "Hey, Cate, will you answer the phone?"

"I don't know who it is!" she responded.

"It's probably, Gran-Gran," I said, thinking about how hardly anyone has the number to this old-fashioned phone and how my mother-in-law was probably on her way to the lake house.

That's all Cate needed to hear, and she picked up the phone hanging on the kitchen wall. "Hey!"

And that's when I realized, my girl has never answered a phone when she wasn't sure who was on the other line. In fact, she's never answered a landline phone. She's only answered my cell phone when she knew, thanks to personalized ringtones, it was either Daddy, Gran-Gran or Grandmom. And she almost always puts my cell phone on speakerphone to talk.

Turns out, it was Gran-Gran on the landline.
I'm 33 years old, but, goodness, I felt even older in that moment thinking about how this generation -- my daughter's generation -- won't know about things that were ordinary to my childhood. There were cassette tapes, dot matrix printers, corded phones that didn't have voice mail or caller ID, and VHS tapes. And, seriously, not one of those things exists in our house. There was no texting and I got my first email address when I enrolled in college and didn't have my own computer on which to check this new, exciting electronic mail. Now I hear Cate say, "Who is the message from?" or "Did you text her?"

My, how things have changed.

And, yes, I realize I aged just saying that. It's probably only a matter of time before I start a story with "When I was a kid ..." and talk about the day of swapping mix tapes with my friends and not being offended with what is acceptable on TV.


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Saturday, July 7, 2012

Big Ben

If you ask Ben how old he is, he'll probably tell you 4. And then if you say, "You're not 4?" He'll come down one to 3. He rarely says 2, his actual age.

When Cate talks about having a loose tooth, Ben tries to wiggle his, discussing how it's also loose. {Again, not true ...}

So when he smiled at lunch today and his toothy grin included some leftover blackberry, he looked like he had lost a tooth like his big sister. We laughed. He smiled bigger. And then I grabbed my camera.

Ben certainly wants to be big. I guess I didn't help matters when I took him to get his hair cut this morning. Honestly, I didn't think it would be that short when I described what I wanted; I just knew his mop of hair needed trimmed at the least. Turns out, I really like it. And I guess he does too, even though he's still not 4.


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Thursday, July 5, 2012

home of the brave

I hope your Fourth of July was filled with ...


cute kids,

adventures that left you in need of a brush,

doing something you love with someone you love,


simple joys,

and a community that always roots you on.


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Wednesday, July 4, 2012


Freedom. Like my nephew running into the ocean.

Happy Independence Day, friends!

I may not like the results of finger-pointing and name-calling that go on among grown-ups in Washington, D.C., but I am thankful to be an American. I live in a country where I'm free to worship God, free to choose, free to start a business, free to travel from one place to another, and free to have opinions.

And that all is indeed worth celebrating. Today. And tomorrow. And any day.

There's another freedom I know, thanks to God. Choosing to follow Christ frees me in a way even being an American can't. Freedom in Christ covers my mistakes with grace and gives me hope for eternal life.

I've also been learning recently how there is freedom to step out of my self-imposed routine. Dinner doesn't have to be on the table at 5:30 p.m. if the kids and I want to swim until 5:40 p.m. Lunch can wait until 12:30 p.m. if the kids are going with the flow or errands. And naptime can be pushed back a little bit if I need to help a friend. These aren't new truths, rather they are freedoms I am constantly reminding my perfectionist, first-born self of to make the most of our summer days

We have a burn ban here in Calloway County, Ky., so no fireworks will light up our sky tonight. But we will celebrate this freedom that can only come from the creator of the universe. Celebrate today. And celebrate again the next day. Because God's mercies are new every morning. And, yes, living in the land of free and home of the brave is a blessing, but knowing God surpasses even that.

Let freedom ring!


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Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Two down ...

"I thought it was a seed," my 5-year-old girl said as she held something between her fingers while eating a grape from her dinner plate.

I turned to Greg and asked, "What is that?"

Then I realized it was her tooth. The one I tried to talk her into pulling two hours earlier. The one my friend Courtney offered to pull while we were swimming. Her second missing tooth.

That toothless grin is precious. And my girl is growing up right at the dinner table.


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Monday, July 2, 2012

{Vacation} Like a good book

Isle of Palms, S.C. I love the beach, even on overcast days.

"So, what was your favorite part of the beach?" one of my dearest friends asked today over our weekly lunch.

I never really answered her question. Instead, I listed everything I loved about the week with my family near Charleston, S.C. And just after doing so, I realized that was the best way to approach the blog post to document my vacation.

So, here we go, hang on for my wordiness ...

Soakin' wet and no worries ... 

My kids loved the beach.
Let me be honest, I want my kids to love the beach. But, you know, well, you just never know. Two years ago, Ben just wanted to eat the sand at the beach. And Cate has grown so much in the past two years and oh-so much since her first time at a beach.

But, with no pressure from their beach-lovin' momma, my kids loved running and in and out of the waves, digging in the sand, searching for shells, and doing it all over again. They played with their clothes on when we weren't planning on getting wet. And they swam among the waves with the sun was shining.

Cate and I were among the group that spent seven hours {with a lunch break back at the rental house} on the beach our last day in South Carolina. Ben went full steam ahead all morning and then took a nap in the afternoon.

Ben loved playing with my aunt Kim,
and he thought that tidal pool was his.

My aunt vacationed with us.
My mom's sister, Kim, and her husband recently retired to a lake near Columbia, S.C, which is only a couple hours from where we were staying at Isle of Palms. We don't see enough of Kim, who is an important person to me, so being able to catch up with her and watch her interact with my kids was such a highlight of vacation.

And Ben certainly agreed. You can see he took her as his playmate on the beach our last day there. He thought that tidal pool was made for him. Those two things gave me a chance to get a good start on Harlan Coben's "Stay Close," which I read in a day and a half. I'm sure you can imagine such speedy reading is really unheard of in this season of my life.

That's my family, minus my dad.

Being with my family was fun. 
I live in a small town that is 3 1/2 hours from my closest family member. I love our life right where it is, but I also love it when my family converges at the same house. Our different philosophies collide in the doorway, yet we make room for each other and fall into the way we are together. They expect me to make a plan. My sister's sarcasm makes us all laugh. My brother is calmer than he was as a kid. The kids adore their aunts and uncles, particularly my brother-in-law. My sister-in-law is so easy going that she brings a calmness to the original Hill family. In fact, all three of us married people who complement us. We laugh, we tell stories, we play games, we eat.

Hello, seafood.
Seriously, eating is one of my favorite things about vacations. Especially seafood near the beach. And even with not much planning and some quick Yelp recommendations, we happened upon some delicious food. Hyman's Seafood. Charleston Crab House. Coconut Joe's. Sullivan's Restaurant. Henry's House.

Cousins make everything more fun. And I love that bridge.

Downtown Charleston is worth exploring.
We had a couple rainy, overcast days that forced us inside, but we found plenty to do. The South Carolina Aquarium was fun and we found the nicest bowling alley I've ever experienced. Plus we saw downtown on a horse-drawn carriage and then took a boat to Fort Sumter. The guys did some fishing while the ladies and kids shopped at Charleston's City Market

Want to see some of the sites we saw?

Two-story ocean tank at the aquarium.

That's Dave leading us around.

The guys caught fish like this.

Capturing the moment while shopping ... 

Ben thought the canons at Fort Sumter were meant to be talked into!

Pardon the wind, but that's us ... 

At Fort Sumter, with a view of our boat and that bridge I love.

Did I mention we ate well? Here is my sweet girl at Cupcake.

I didn't want to leave South Carolina on Saturday morning. I could have gone for a few more days, even a week more, before settling back into normal life. But once I got home 12 1/2 hours after leaving our rental house, I was glad to be home.

You know, vacation is kind of like a good book. You get hooked and just want to soak it all in, page after page, not wanting to put it down. But then it's over, but, thankfully, you have the stories to cherish. And, well, of course, I took many pictures to go along with the words we were living.


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