Wednesday, February 27, 2013

MIA

I realize that after my last post and then an extended absence from around here, you might be nervous that perhaps I got lost in the trash in my van or something. Rest assured, we are all still here and doing well. Finally everyone is in good health, and Caden is only waking up about once or twice a night. Which, hello, we should clearly start writing our parenting book now: "How to almost get your one and a half year old to almost sleep through the night." It will be a bestseller, I'm sure.

Since I simply cannot seem to find five minutes to sit down and write a little bit about what I'm actually feeling, you know, in the deepest recesses of my heart, I thought I'd at least share some of my favorite recent reads and links with y'all. Because I love you.
This made me laugh. Out loud. Also, it made me grateful I am normal, and my kids are normal. Well, mostly normal. 46 Reasons My Three Year Old Might be Freaking Out

This. Why I Stopped Telling.

An Interview with Shane Claiborne. I love this especially: "So even if we don’t all respond in the exact same way, we can all, for example, see the suffering of this world as something we are called to enter into instead of flee from. We can reject the patterns of, for example, suburban sprawl that are often built around moving away from pain, or away from neighborhoods of high crime, or away from people who don’t look like us, and respond instead to the gospel inertia that invites us to enter into that pain. So this means we also have to challenge some of those patterns of consumerism and insulation, and sprawl, and homogeneity."

Books I've read so far this year:
- Wonder
- Behind the Beautiful Forevers
- Wild (From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail)
- Fatherless Generation
 -Reluctant Prophet and Unexpected Dismounts
- Fist Stick Knife Gun: A Personal History of Violence

By the way, have you seen my side-bar of links? I try to keep it updated with what I've been reading and recommend reading. But you'll have to click over to the actual blog to see it, just in case you're reading in google-reader or something similar.
*Did you notice our new re-upholstered loveseat? That's the one I told you about that I love and Adam hates. But Zack falls asleep on it every time, so I think the vote is 2-1 for it. Oh and did you also notice my other new decor addition? I like to call it: the tv antennae on top of the candle. It's lovely, right?

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Why you should never clean out your car

I'm going to let you in on a little secret: I'm an awful "housewife." Like beyond terrible. I cannot cook. I constantly forget to switch the laundry, so it always smells slightly mildew-y. Typically, I also forget to wash the basketball jerseys until an hour before the game (which means stinky teenager sweat sitting in a bag for a week. nastified). Our house is rarely clean. As in, for a while it was clean once a week when we had "cleaning day" but then Danielle moved out and baskbetball was on Mondays and everything just seemed entirely too hard to tackle on my own.

But our cars y'all? They are just on a whole 'nother level. It's like we are physically incapable of keeping it from complete ruin.

Then the other day, three of the neighborhood boys were so desperate for hot wings loved us so much that they offered to clean our car our for five  dollars each. Recognizing a naive view of just how disgusting our car is, and knowing a deal when I see it - I accepted their offer immediately. So now our car is clean. Which is most likely last all of two days before it dissolves into chaos again. Entropy is strong in our cars y'all. Entropy and unidentified smells. 

All that to say, since our car has been clean, I have found myself ill-prepared for outings on multiple occasions. I've realized that this is the result of typically being able to count on finding extra jackets, shoes, clean diapers, wipes, (insert various other items here), in the back/crevices of our van. So as I watch our car quickly getting itself messy again (obviously not our fault), I have compiled a useful list of reasons you should NOT clean your car. 

I even labeled a picture of the inside of our car (quick mom, look away and pretend you raised me better!) because you are obviously going to want to "pin" this post for future reference.
 
1- You will always have extra napkins for wiping hands and cleaning up spills. Just check any one of the five or so empty Chick-fil-a bags, surely there's a clean napkin or two in there.

2- Need shoes? Forgot shoes? No problem. If you're lucky, you might even find a matching pair.
3 - There are a plethora of toys to entertain the children. My preferred method is just reaching behind me and rummaging on the floor until I find something to hand them. When they tire of it, they simply throw it back on the floor, and I rummage around for a new one.

4- You will have significantly less laundry to do because all of your children's socks and sweatshirts etc will be left in the car.

5- To quote one of the kiddos on the way to church this week: "I bet you could find a fortune in here."

6- I realize it may be embarrassing and/or a hassle when you open your doors and things fall out (particularly if you are somewhere that you are forced to valet park, which thankfully doesnt happen to us very often), but I like to just think of this as my ministry: no matter how messy your house/car/whatever is, our car will always be worse. Making moms feel better about themselves since 2006 (which is when I married Adam. Before then, my car was clean. Interesting phenomenon right?)

*ps - I'm slightly embarrassed about these pictures. I have no shame apparently.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Updates and 52 week project

I just had a realization that I left y'all hanging a little bit on our last post. We took Caden to the doctor and discovered that he just had a stomach bug, which was unrelated to his pneumonia. After washing mountains of laundry and being thrown up many times, Caden is finally back to his cheerful self and seems to be feeling normal. Thankfully, he has even started eating ravenously, which he has never done before. Now if we can just convince him to eat his vegetables. Thank you to everyone for your prayers! We will take Caden to the cardiologist again in a few weeks, and I will keep you posted on what they tell us then.

As far as the rest of life goes around here, we continue to have a full house. In fact, things just keep getting fuller as the basketball team boys have realized one of their friends is living with us here, making our house a much cooler place to hang out. Although sometimes I like to pretend it's because I'M the cool one that they keep coming over. 
(These pictures of my big girl sort of take my breath away. She is so beautiful and sweet and such a treasure. Sigh, now if she would only stop growing up so fast!)



In other news: we have a few weeks left of basketball games, our church just started a youth group (which our boys are over-the-moon excited about), and we have completed two mentor trainings, and are working on getting everyone matched up and ready to go.

We SO appreciate all of your prayers and love and encouragement and support. Y'all are the best. For realz.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

CHD Awareness Week


It turns out that this week is CHD Awareness week. Some of y'all might remember that last year I helped put together a Pinterest Board to share stories and raise awareness. I haven't had the wherewithal to plan anything yet this year. I keep saving all my heart-momma-friends' posts and reading them and vowing to put something up to commemorate Congenital Heart Defects and to draw attention to something that has had such a profound impact on our lives here at the Stanley Clan. Unfortunately, life hasn't even slowed down enough this week to allow me time to READ all those posts, let alone write one of my own. So instead, I'm pointing y'all in the direction of some of my friends' whose stories and posts are far more poignant than mine right now. We feel really passionately about congenital heart defects and awareness and pulse-ox screenings. And we know that, as well as Caden is doing right now, there will be more surgeries and his heart will always, always, play a huge role in our family's path and in bringing us to our knees before a God who loves and crafted Caden into the beautiful little boy who is snuggled in my arms right now.

If you dont know Caden's story, you can read it all right here. 
Before Caden was born, there was so much we didn't know about congenital heart defects, starting with the fact that it was even something we should begin to think or worry about. Or ask about. Or that 1 in 100 babies is born with a congenital heart defect. I've concluded recently, that it is hard to be truly passionate or even to have a complete thought and opinion about something until you have personally encountered it in some way. Poverty, homosexuality, death, pain, illness, sick children . . . Face-to-face feels and shapes and hones our hearts and minds about a thing far differently than reading about something or vaguely knowing it. So if experiencing Caden's story and joining in our lives, even a little bit on this little corner of the interwebs, can be that for you and CHD, then we will be grateful and honored to be a stepping stone on that journey. Because congenital heart defects matter, and babies like Caden matter, and for people to be aware and funding money to be there for research and places like Children's Healthcare of Atlanta . . . all of it matters profoundly, and we wouldn't be where we are today if it wasnt for those things. So I'd love for you to read, share, give, and otherwise contribute to this cause in any way you feel led.

You can also visit any of these fellow heart family's blogs, they are all sharing stories and facts and helping raise awareness about congenital heart defects this week.

 
Kristine at Cora's Story  
Ruth at Corbin's Story
Joye at Signs of Life
Brandi at Madison Gandy
Czarina at Accidental Purpose

**As a side note, we'd appreciate prayers for our little Caden . . . He just got over pneumonia and woke up at 4am covered in diarrhea (sorry, no warning on the gross there. What can I say? I've been married to Adam so long that I've become callous to gross apparently) and burning up with fever. Adam's taking him to the doctor right now, and I'm going to pick Zack up from school, and then we need to make him a cardiologist appointment within the next month, so we would appreciate prayers for health and strength for our weary family. Because also? As it turns out, living with a teenager (even the best teenager ever), is not for the faint of heart. Please and thank-you.

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Stanley Man: So You Want to Raise Chickens . . .


Missed Adam's first installment of The Stanley Man? Read it here. Oh and Adam has also been promising me some posts for y'all about the delicious things he makes (like cereal milk ice cream and from-scratch Indian dishes and homemade granola. no big deal), oh and the fabulous home decor projects he completes for me, like the chandelier and a pallet wall . . . Again, no big deal. However, at the rate his posts are coming, it might be a minute so don't hold your breath.

Becca has been asking me for months to do another manly update and I figured after the last one I left all wanting chickens of your own…right? They are really easy to raise and care for. I think I mentioned we raised them from two day old chicks that our mail lady delivered to our front door. So here’s more details about raising them.

I picked out five chicken breeds based on their laying quailities (egg size, egg color, and quantity), their color, and their temperament. I ordered them from mypetchicken.com which was excellent in getting the chickens to us alive and getting us all hens as ordered. Becca was not very happy with the thought of what happens to a rooster around here. I ordered them in January with a ship date of May. Once May was approaching I went to the Home Depot (my second home). Zack hates going to HD with me because I apparently meander through the store with drool on my chin. He mutters something about how I awkwardly ogle the products. I explain to him and all the other haters out there that I see incredible potential in so many things. I’m a dreamer people. Anyways, I got a Rubbermaid storage bin that was clear so I could see the little ladies, and a lid to be sure they couldn’t get out and scare Becca. I cut an opening on each side of the lid and covered it with chicken wire. This way the work light I bought could shine through with the red bulb to keep the little ladies warm.

They called me on a Monday (the hatch day) to let me know they had a poor hatching of one of the breeds I ordered and would have to send me a different breed. I was bummed but they did a great job of helping me pick out another available breed based the qualities I gave them. So I put the aspen bedding down in the brooder setup the lamp and made sure the temperature was right with a little thermometer I laid in the brooder.
 
By Wednesday Becca heard the faint sound of peeping chick through the front door. She grabbed the mace and was ready for war…or she just brought the poor peeping fluff balls in and waited for me to get home and take care of the rest. Once home I opened the box and checked their backsides to be sure they were clear from any poo build up. Sometime baby chicks have poo dry on their butt causing a backup if you know what I mean. This will lead to death if poo is not removed. I checked each one before adding it to the brooder and dipping its beak in the water trough so it knew where to drink.

 
Once they were all in they hurried around and found the food, then the heat lamp. I’m telling you guys its super easy to raise these little ladies. You check on them every couple hours the first few days to make sure the temperature is good. Fill up the feed and water troughs and hold them at least once a day and they will love you forever. I think they stayed in the brooder for about 8 weeks then we put them in the coop once it warmed up outside. We used organic starter feed till they were about 14 weeks and once the 50# bag was done we switched them to a developer feed. Then finally an organic layer feed at about 20 weeks. They started laying about 6 months after they arrived, and have provided us with 4-5 eggs daily since.
 
The ladies get to roam about the yard 3-4 times a week. Usually ill let them out around noon and close the run door after they roost for the night. This way they have the opportunity to lay in the morning and fill up on clover and grubs in the afternoon. They are great in the compost bins, constantly scratching and turning the compost while adding nitrogen here and there. I let them take over our raised beds for a couple weeks in September to fertilize and turn the soil. I then planted carrots, beets, kale, romaine and butter crunch lettuce, spinach, arugula, and broccoli. I haven’t had to fertilize once.
Well, that about all the boring info I have on chickens, probably too much. Some great books are if you are serious about raising chickens are City Chicks by Patricia L. Foreman and Chicken Gardens by Jessi Bloom. Also www.backyardchickens.com has a wealth of information and coop designs.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Sunshine-y Day

Yesterday was one of those rare days, where the temperature lands just right on bare arms and the sun shines brave, glimmering through and burning off the morning fog with a gentle warmth and beckoning me outside. In a strange and unexpected turn of events, I even pull on some running pants and push Adam's fancy new jogging stroller quickly through the neighborhood. If not quite "running," it was at least a pace that quickened my breath and warmed my limbs. We end our brisk walk at the park. I sit on the bench with a missing plank, which cradles my bottom perfectly uncomfortably, while Caden swings slow and Jayci runs quick around the various playground apparatus. I smile as the sunshine scoots closer and wraps me in a delicious sense of not-quite-so-alone-ness. I have the perfect vantage point to watch the neighborhood boys play basketball, their silhouettes outlined in the glowing sinking sun. Their moves are peppered with jabs and good-natured (or sometimes down-right-mean) jonesing. A talkative three-year-old (whose name I cannot for the life of me understand no matter how many times I ask) swings next to Caden, and keeps asking me where my baby girl is. My eyes trail her easy friendship with the other similarly-aged children at the playground. They clump and climb together easily, her fair hair sticks straight up when she goes down the slide, and all the other girls smooth it down and wonder at its softness. Ever-so-often, she grins at me or points out one of the boys she knows on the baskbetball court. Inevitably, she runs over for a hug or to yell I LOVE YOU towards the court, which both embarrasses and pleases the recipient.
Walking home as the sun sinks lower and our shadows lengthen, it's easy to forget the cares of the week, the burdens of the neighborhood. Caden's pneumonia, diagnosed on Monday, is all-but-forgotten. All that remains is the occasional cough, and a desperation to make up for several nights of no-sleep-at-all. The Anteater boys are in high spirits, despite dual losses and a gang-fight on the bus (which several of them were apparently a part of. sigh). The stroller wheels over a fresh tag on the street next to our fence, and I squint to decipher the yellow words: RIP someone and free someone else.

We arrive home to find five teenagers lounging in the living room, watching various YouTube videos of rap and/or comedy. The smells of Adam's cooking embrace me as I walk through the door. I hug all around, squeezing hands and winking while teasing them about doing their homework, and set the table for eight. Adam raises his eyebrows, reminding me he only made enough for four. I smile and cut chicken breasts in half, pull bread from the pantry and fill cups with water. Because I have learned, and am still learning, that God always gives us enough. And maybe we don't have any leftovers, no sweet potatoes for lunch tomorrow. But he provides grace, and sustenance, enough for this day. Every day.

 
Totally Unrelated Side note -- Big thanks to whoever nominated me for The Homies Best Family & Kids blog of 2013! I'd love for y'all to pop over and vote for me if you get a chance! Scroll all the way down (past all the blogs with lots of votes already) to find The Stanley Clan and vote now!) PS - apologies for the over-abundance of exclamation marks. My B.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

From the Cracks

Our security door has been bent up at the bottom since we moved in, a vestige of a previous attempt to break-in. I voted to take it off, but stubbornly it remains anchored to the house, never quite latching closed unless dead-bolted. When the wind blows, it swings open ferociously and bangs loudly against the house until I jump out of my skin at the unexpected announcement of its presence. Even now as I sit typing and erasing and re-writing and trying to connect my head and heart to coalesce into words, it bangs. Distracting and reminding me that even the things we expect to offer security sometimes really just fling to and fro with the wind.

This week has been a doozy. Right now, in fact, my feverish boy warms my lap, equal parts wiggly and spent.
Tuesdays are my busiest, most favorite day of the week. This week is no exception: predictable excited knocks begin peppering our front door as soon as high school lets out. We arrive home after picking Zack up from school to a porch-full of boys, wondering if Jayci made them cookies and requesting basketballs and/or changing space in the bathroom so they can get into their uniforms. Open and shut the door bangs, until finally it's nearly time to leave, and our babysitter (my sister) is stuck in traffic and so my other sister and brother-in-law brought the girl they mentor over to work on a science project and we need to find the hot glue gun. I shake up a bottle for Caden, heat frozen vegetables in the microwave for Jayci, gather the sandwiches and cookies we made the boys, and rummage through bins of endlessly unorganized craft supplies mired in glitter. All the while, I herd boys back onto the front porch until legs too long for teenage bodies fill every available space, perched on railings and dropping candy wrappers all over the lawn. Adam and I gather and try to leave on time (a next-to-impossible task for us). Somehow in the unsupervised mix of twenty-odd teenage boys, something inappropriate and/or unkind gets yelled from our front porch to a girl walking by (shocking I know). And the snap in return is equally predictable, her too-tight t-shirt and weave bobbing with anger and indignation as she lobs a brick at our house. Angry raised voices bring me running out on the front porch and get-in-here-right-now-sir dissipates the situation until she returns with angry protective males in two, threatening to kill someone, to shoot our house while we sleep.

Wednesday we leave Zack watching an ESPN documentary on Lolo. She jumps hurdles effortlessly while our babies sleep. We slip out the door, giggling at the unexpected freedom, and sit down to eat fried egg sandwiches and chicken and waffles, chatting with friends who understand about Tuesday night's incident and what-in-the-world-are-we-doing-here? After dinner, we sit on couches wrapped in blankets and talk about our kiddos. Expelled from second grade, suspended, in jail, pregnant, angry. Our lives are inextricably entwined with those of our neighbors and friends, and suddenly love your neighbor as yourself takes on an achingly tangible quality. Huddled under blankets against the cold front that blew in on the heels of tornadoes and flash floods, my chest feels tight, like the burdens of all our kiddos have coalesced and planted themselves squarely on my heart.

Thursday dawns, and I feel heavy of heart and limb, barely able to pull myself from under covers to swing my weary feet onto cold floors. A sick baby means even less sleep than usual, combined with a few fitful hours of worrying over the kiddos before finally drifting into oft-interrupted slumber. But, of course, for the mama there are no sick days, no worrying-in-bed-all-day days. So I slip on thick socks and warm boots, and pour my coffee bleary-eyed before driving Jayci to school and spending some time working on emails and “real work.” Busy work that distracts me for only a moment before I dive back into thoughts of the kiddos, our boys, the neighborhood.
 
I pick Jayci up, and we head to Publix because, you know, free cookies and balloons make every grocery time approximately sixty-eight times easier. I am juggling checkout when Adam calls me to tell me that Zack's teacher called: he got in trouble at school, and is behind in his classes. Oh and our other boy, the brother he is living with has no money for food. I sigh heavily, struggling to navigate the giant race-car shopping cart towards the van. Buckling the kids in, I cant help but think that there's a reason we are eased into the parenting of teenagers through pre-teen and (shudder) middle school years. Jayci sings all the words to Call Me Maybe and I go to a drive-through for a giant diet coke because sometimes I just need to reward myself (for nothing, really, besides existing through one crisis after another).

Pulling off the highway at our exit, I'm jarred from auto-pilot by the sight of four or five helicopters hovering above the neighborhood middle and high school. I flick the radio station to news, hearing that there has been a shooting at Price Middle School in our neighborhood. Only a few of the kids we know actually go to this school, but it's right next door to the high school that nearly all the Anteaters attend, and they too are on lock-down.

And, not for the first time this week, I feel hard-pressed to catch my breath for the unrelenting weight on my heart. Because even though the boy who was shot will be ok, even though no one “shot up our house,” even though we gave money for food for Sabo, even though Zack is still the best fifteen year old I know despite his teenager-moments, even though a new day will dawn after night, there are still so many things in our city that betray a creeping and persistent darkness. And lately I’m feeling like we keep finding ourselves shoved more and more deeply into the cracks that these kiddos slip through.
And the truth of the matter is that the cracks aren’t very comfortable. They’re dark, and kind of squishy, and supremely lonely. We’ve been having trouble recruiting mentors, which has given me a bad attitude and made me feel a little despondent and frustrated. Like why in the world are we the only ones here? Where are all the other people who love Jesus? 

But when I get in that place, when I get overwhelmed by the darkness, by the storm that so often surrounds us here, it usually means I have taken my eyes off of Jesus. Because here’s the thing about cracks: they let the light shine through. So even when they feel broken, and dark, and even a little scary, I am learning that standing in the gap for “the least of these” means we bear the great privilege and responsibility of being a fissure for Christ’s love to seep through.

Driving to pick Zack up from school today (do you sense a theme here? We’ve been spending a lot of time driving these days), I noticed the moon. Pale and barely discernable, white pencil sketched on brilliant blue sky. Beautiful, yes, and still bravely holding its place in the sun-soaked sky. But it seemed scarcely related to the glowing orb I noticed the night before, let alone the same creature. Only under the cloak of darkness do we most desperately long for the moon’s light. And even then, it only reflects the light of the sun to a blackened landscape, casting dim shadows, dappled by craters.

And so it is with us. We hold our place, hoping to reflect the sun onto the darkness around us. And sometimes it is hard. Sometimes things seem especially dark. And yet we continue in our orbit, hoping that the light we reflect will shine through the cracks for the ones we are most desperately in love with. The ones who teach us Jesus, the ones who seem most likely to slip through the deepest cracks that society and life offer. Because just as we reflect the sun, so do they. And, like catching our reflection in a mirror, we realize that our lives are inextricably connected as we serve and follow a Savior who shines brightest in the darkness.

So tonight, as I type these words, the moon’s light filters through the bent security door, latched for the night; and reflects on the shards of broken glass on the back window. I’m reminded where our security really comes from. And it’s not from having our kids in a “safe” school. It’s not from metal detectors, or youth groups, or mace cans, or metal bars on our windows. It’s from following Jesus, from loving our neighbor as ourselves, from a Father who never gives up, who fills the cracks with His people to stop even one of His beloved children from slipping through, and who shines His light fearlessly and fiercely into the waiting and desperate arms of a broken world

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