Monday, March 31, 2008

Just remembering some fun...


I was scrolling through some photos and came across this one. John Frank Graham, I love you to bits and pieces for this birthday outing. What fun to ride a vespa-to feel free and footloose for just a little while.

that was awesome honey. Thanks loads.
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Sunday, March 30, 2008

Thoughts of Evie

The week we left Africa our friend and "housemate/housemaid" Evie scuried and worked to create-as a gift to our family-an array of Xhosa traditional dress. She toiled and sewed, sometimes late into the night, so that as we left Africa we would have something to remember her by. This photo was taken just minutes before we hugged and thanked her and left her forever.

Now, mind you, Evie doesn't sew off a pattern. Each piece was made "from scratch". Sometimes she would need to "fit us" for the clothes, and finding something too long or too big would make my heart ache for her-because the seems are hand sewn and the detail work hand done. Its no wonder Evie's eyes are going, and her fingers are sore. She gives all of herself to this work of creating a bit of her culture, and it shows in the finished product.

I'm thinking of Evie so much these days. It isn't just that I am unable to "keep house" the way she could keep house for me. It is that I know I will probably never see her again. And she is a dear soul. A good soul. A kind soul. I always feel sad to leave "behind" a friendship or a connection to a person who has left be better off for knowing them.

As we unpacked our final suitcase from South Africa I found folded with the Xhosa clothes a striped piece of material. When unfolded it became an apron,made after the pattern of the japanese apron I wore nearly every day we lived in Johannesburg. This apron, for all that it means, is a treasure to me. Evie's handmade marks are all over it, and it is her that I have with me when I wear it. How kind and thoughtful she was to recognize this signature of mine; apron wearing; and to make a part of her go with me into life "this side" as she created for me a gift from her heart.

I've not forgotten you Evie, and I know I never will. You are part of the better side of me, and your handmade marks have left me with more than just lovely aprons and beautiful Xhosa clothes....

Thursday, March 27, 2008

A note of thanks

Dear Container Store,

This is a fan letter. I am a fan of your store, the people who work in them and the things that you sell. I love to give you our money. I am happy when I walk the aisles of your clean and organized store front and see all the ways I can create a place for everything and put everything in its place. sometimes I dream in elpha, the shelving and organizing tool you so skillfully sell to me on the billboards that I pass as I drive on the Dallas freeways.

You inspire me. You speak my language. Your "organizational consultants" are my friends. They understand my need for order and they empower me to create that order (Thank you, especially this week, for Sir Collin from England who works in your Southlake store and has helped me to plan and create a beautiful and orderly mud wall for my children's shoes and school things. Sir collin was fantastic during a critical moment when my daughters had fallen asleep in the car and I needed just a few more shelves. He didn't call the department of health and welfare when I let them stay asleep and he even placed my order while I ran out to the parking lot to be sure no one else was standing by the car dialing the number to health and welfare).

Please send me promotional materials, emails, and any printed advertising you offer, as I longingly gaze upon all things organizational as if they were the answer to the frenetic chaos that the mother of a large family must face in organizing and maintaining order in her home. Your catalog and website is my zen, my moment of centeredness, or my potential to reach that centeredness, with just a few more purchases for those hard to organize spaces.

Yes, I am your fan. I thank you and I praise your organized and orderly concepts.
with deep sincerity and great fondness,

Field Trip

We've now had 4 kindergartners, and that means 4 kindergarten field trips to the zoo. Today, Molly and Lucy and I accompanied Porter to the Ft. Worth Zoo to witness the animals, and the kids too. We got lost (being the last of a caravan of like 100 cars was not smart, as I'm new to town) both going and coming back. It took ages to find the kids after we finally found the zoo, and then Lucy was a nightmare (yes, that little darling girl CAN be a nightmare). But I was there with Porter. 4 kindergarten field trips to the zoo, and I haven't missed one yet.

Mason's zoo trip was in Stockholm. Pretty sure Grandma Graham made it to that one too.
Brynley's trip was in Boise. I fondly remember my dear friend Tiffany's lament as she watched a tiger pee all over her daughter Hailey (seriously, that happened).
Madi's field trip was in Salt Lake. We were in the middle of adoption anxiety-and as I wandered the zoo that day wondering why on earth I was pursuing this adoption I watched as a beautiful young mother (of Asian descent) patiently and lovingly help her little children enjoy the zoo. It was a gift from Heaven to witness that Lucy's coming wasn't just about me or Lucy; it was about generations that follow her into eternity.
And now, Porter's trip in Ft. Worth. I left dishes in the sink and piles of moving-in chaos on the floors. I had the girls in the car with lunches and the double stroller (that we, as an aside, did not use accept for me pushing it around empty as Lucy clung to my arms and Molly sprinted from one animal exhibit to another grabbing onto other mother/shaperones as she went) by 8:20, even though the buses didn't leave from the school until about 9:15. I got there, I did it. 4 kindergartners. 4 field trips. All with me in attendance.

sometimes, just sometimes, I think to myself that I might get the hang of this mothering thing after all ;)

On Trees

About 9 years ago, we discovered that the tree in our front yard was too sick to last, and we had to remove it from the ground. I remember the task being unpleasant, especially grinding the wide stump into oblivion. Within a month, our incredible neighbor Evans Mank had helped us select a replacement tree, and he and Mason (with 1 year old Brynley watching on) planted new life into our old front yard. 4 years later, on the night we moved away, Evans and Mason-with Brynley too-posed for a photo in front of the then adolescent tree. It had grown to reach about 8 feet by then, and I felt glad that we were leaving for future home owners the strength of a young and hardy tree.

Five years have flown by, and now we find ourselves in the same city (generally speaking) as our dear friend and former neighbor Evans. We buy a suburban home with an acre of grass, a place that desperately needs some trees. Evans offers free seedlings, all we need to do is help plant them and keep them alive. We readily agree, and enjoy an afternoon spent with dear friends and our hands in the earth. As we plant Evans shares that these baby trees are the offspring of our old tree-a tree that has grown to be strong and straight, lending shade and fresh air to the family that lives in our old Dallas home.

A circle of life kind of thing, I think. Us, thanks to Evans, bringing to this new Dallas house one of the best things that came from our old one. With water and tender care, I hope we stay planted ourselves long enough for shade and beauty -and a little fresh air- to be part of the Graham's growth here in Texas.

Mason sings

Mason had his first choral concert last night. Mom-who sang through high school and college-was very proud. It was even worth the "are all of them yours?" and "wow, you must be busy" comments I had flying left and right as we entered and exited the middle school, all kids in tow and John at a client dinner.

Yes, I am busy.
Yes, they are mine.
Yes, Mason is a great choral musician.
Yes, I am happy...

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Easter in the chaos

We had Easter; wasn't that holiday supposed to happen in APRIL? But, thanks to some comments about how the kids would be out of school for a week due to the spring holiday I did remember it was coming and somehow we pulled it off; easter outfits and baskets to boot.

To me, this is a sacred and reverent holiday. A time to reflect on the miracle and purposes of this life, and to re-center myself and remember that following the example of my Savior, Jesus Christ, is the most important reason for my existence. In the middle of egg hunts and outfits it is sometimes hard to remember. But, I think because I need His help so much right now perhaps this year the feelings of tender love and awe that I have for Christ were a bit more on the surface, and it was a tender day-even in the chaos of our current new life.

Happy Easter. He lives, and I testify of this truth. He is real, and He really knows us. His interest and purpose is our redemption, and my central desire is to be somehow mercifully able to be in His presence when this lovely life is ended for me. My daily purpose is to bring my children to His feet, that they may come to know Him for themselves. I know that through following His example and giving my will to Him I can know and love Him more. May I ever do that from now until next Easter and for all the Easters beyond is my personal desire.

Another Dream realized...

From the time I was a small girl I have longed to have, as a mother (you know "when I grow up and become a mother I had those thoughts too, but your thoughts probably didn't center around furniture or fixtures, mine sometimes did;)

As I was saying, I longed to have a dutch door. One that could be part open and part closed at the same time. One that could let the cool breeze of spring in the house and keep the muddy feet of children who desperately need to play outside out.

I have no explanation for this secret wish. It seemed in books and magazines where happy families lived there were dutch doors. It seemed, as I grew older and started to notice, that old houses had dutch doors-and old houses always to me had character and the reality of life well lived attached. When we lived in Europe I actually saw lots of dutch doors, and they were well used. I wanted the door even more.

Home to Dallas, then to Boise, then on to Salt Lake. No Dutch door. It really wasn't possible at those times or in those homes to make this dream come true.

But, now the time has come. And I am so darned excited you can hardly believe it. The guy who is making the door has assured me of its impracticality. Poor John I'm sure is squashing giggles when I speak of the blessed entry to and from the back yard, with its perfectly shaped window pane and the little ledge that separates top from bottom. He can't believe I want to spend our money on such an item I'm sure. But I do; and I have.

It's on its way, 30 days or sooner to installation. Can't wait to show you, can't wait to see it myself.

My perfect dutch door.

Living the Dream

Because my husband's generosity and good will is never ending, I have had the pleasure making a reality out of a dream I've had for some time. Creating a piece of furniture-a portable Library/study if you will, for my children to sit near and use as access to all things homework related (save the computer which will ever remain in a VERY conspicuous place in a VERY public place in our home...)has been something so on my mind for -seriously-a couple of years. I want my kids to spread out there homework and sit down at a table that is NOT our eating/dinner table and think and think and think. I've wanted them to have pencils, staplers, rulers, reference books and the like at their fingertips so aimless wandering during homework time to find said items can be minimized.

It's happening. Our library. The cabinet maker is sawing, measuring, cutting and sanding even as we speak to create for me this conceptual masterpiece. He promises installation by April 10-and he swears he can finish it exactly like my favorite white table which it will accompany in our dining room/kid's study.

I can't wait.

Thanks John, you are so the best!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The best Birthday present...

Bryn has been scrimping and savingso she can open her own account at the bank. She wanted to save $100.00 on her own and then put that in the bank. What an accomplishment for a 10 year old girl who gets money from infrequent allowances, some "money chores" at home and gifts from birthdays etc. I've felt really pleased that Bryn has the interest in saving her money.

Then, with $68 in hand and a mind to complete her goal she experienced a change of heart in honor of Madi's birthday...

I went shopping for gifts with Brynley in tow and she noticed something she thought Madi would really like; texting toys. These little gizmos could send messages to one another. Bryn saw herself texting with her best buddy-Madi-and couldn't resist. She begged me to take Madi on her birthday with Brynley so Bryn could make the special purchase. We drove over to the shop. Bryn went in with Madi while I parked the car. Even with her intense fear of salespeople Brynley paid for the gift and they both left the store before I entered.

A goal not met, but a birthday girl made joyful over the love and generosity of her sister. Happy Birthday to Madi, from your loving sister Bryn.

A great brother-in-law

Dear Dean,
Thank you beyond words for spending time with our family this weekend. I truly don't think you know the joy you bring to our home when you come to see us-reserved though you may be. The kids jump for joy and you jump with them, on the trampoline. This visit you celebrated birthdays, moved furniture, assembled garage shelves (without being asked to) and I'm pretty sure you unplugged the guest room toilet too (you are seriously a saint for doing that!). You are a smart, thoughtful, kind, reverent, pleasant and fun man, man. I am so grateful to be your sister.
I do want you to know that we were all huddled together on Friday morning, about interview time, with our arms folded and our hearts lifted in prayers on your behalf. We wanted for you to have a great day in Austin as you interviewed for Business school. I thank you that your opportunity to do something difficult was an opportunity for this mom to teach her kids about faith and the power of prayer. Your report that the day went well was an answer to the prayers of many little souls who love you deeply.
And I love you too.
your big sister, Katie

Friday, March 14, 2008

Patching things up for Porter

Our entry into school has gone relatively smoothly so far, at least on most days. It has been fun to see our kids tromp home after a long day, actually glad that they can walk home from school (instead of school being held IN their home...) It has also been fun to see the welcome they've received by the school and its staff. All of the kids were greeted by their first names, the teachers and students having been prepared in advance for their arrival.
Porter's kindergarten teacher sent home a weekend project which included Finny the Fish. Finny was to partner with Porter for the weekend, joining us in all our activities. At the end of the weekend Porter (with mom's help) added a scrapbook page to Finny's travel book, and then Porter presented his scrapbook page to all his classmates and told them about his adventures with fish in tow. Fun idea. Kinda hard to come up with activities and adventures that did NOT include unpacking boxes or stacking packing paper in the garage. We managed to bring Finny along to a church activity, and he did get to sleep over with Porter and all of Porter's newly recovered stuffed animals.
But Finny's best and most important adventure with Porter was learning how to empathize with a kid who has to wear an eye patch. Saturday morning, like most every other morning of Porter's life, began with tears as I approached him with his eye patch. This eye patch, while completely necessary to help Porter's weak eye become strong, is a difficult challenge for Porter in his daily life. I think one of the most difficult things I've heard from my sweet little Porter is "I have to go blind now". These are the words he whispers as I apply the daily dose of patch to Porter's strong eye, forcing the weak muscles of his lazy eye to work for themselves.
On this day, with Finny as witness, Porter began his rant and lament concerning optical patch therapy. In my motherly frustration-which surfaces easily when I have to apply something, like a patch, in my children's life which is in the short term very painful but in the long term very beneficial-I wanted to holler out at Porter, "you know we have to do this every day kid, so buck up!" Somehow instead of doing that, I instead said to Porter...
"It must be hard that no one knows what its like for you to have to wear this patch."
"yeah mom, you don't know what its like to go blind" said my pathetic little man.
"but, maybe Finny would understand you if you let him wear a patch today too."
"but, could he know what it feels like?"
"I'm sure he could. He is a fish, and fish are very empathetic. Let's try"
"o.k. mom"

on went Finny's patch. On went Porter's patch. On went a smile (on my face and Porter's) and on went the camera.

I was relieved that for one day Porter felt understood and that we had avoided fits and fighting over something that hurts now but matters a lot later. Porter was just glad that someone could know how it feels to "go blind" for a while every day, and that knowledge helped him smile instead of cry.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The last few weeks...

So, as February came to a close, so we came to close on our house, or-maybe not. About two days before closing our real estate agent started to send out rumbling concerns about our mortgage company. I've never had a problem with a mortgage-NEVER. So it hadn't occurred to me in any way that we would come to closing day and have any issues with our lender not being prepared to lend. Well, they had issues. By the day before closing day, with my real estate agent standing in front of the home sellers and talking to us both about a possible "postponed close" all my pent up frustration bubbled and percalated-but did not spout or steam. However, right after this embarrassing encounter in front of the sellers of our home (feels like your mother telling you in front of your buddy that you didn't do your chores so you can't go out and play-not a happy feeling for me!) I made my way to our lender. Our lender just happens to be our bank, and not more than a week prior to this embarrassing day we had dropped a whole lot of money into an account at this, our new bank. Having sold a home many months prior, and having some other nice financial incentives like no rent for6 months, our bank balance was nicer than ever (the down payment hadn't been taken out mind you). So I briefed our kids on how they should behave inside the bank, and then I tromped us all in there. I explained to the bank manager our situation, and that we had heard there were some troubles concerning the mortgage arm of the bank not being prepared with the papers necessary for us to close. In as friendly a tone as I could possibly have mustered with Lucy crawling all over me and Mason asking where the restroom was, I informed said manager that our funds would be removed from the bank and a new bank found if our close was not prepared in time. My integrity, I explained, was laid on the dotted line when I signed my name to the housing contract-and I was not about to see our integrity compromised when I had movers lined up to arrive hours after the closing date. Not to mention a new (and very awesome) fridge and washer and dryer coming into the home on the very day it closed.

It worked.

We funded on time and all this chaos began. Here is a scene of our home the day we made the offer on it...

And here are what those same rooms look like now, as of about an hour ago

kinda scary eh? Amazing what 26 tons of goods looks like when sprawled all over an unfamiliar house. How will we ever be organized in here?

At least we are in here, I guess.

February in review...

O.k., so here's the run down on February. It is over. Went so quickly that even in the very act of purchasing birthday gifts for our two March birthday children today I wanted to write February dates on the checks-time does fly as they say...First part of February; we left South Africa and flew to Utah; you got to see the ensuing house hunting trip and the home purchase that was the result. I'll spare you the details accept for this...a small piece of Dallas euphoria (it is hard for me to be euphoric about Dallas, but this is that good). Zucchini casserole and amazing bar-b-que at Sammy's in Down town Dallas.
We left Dallas to a whirlwind of seeing family and friends in Salt Lake, celebrating a few very important birthdays for people like this:
Here was the scene in DFW airport around 9:30 p.m. February 18th, when we realized we had parked the cars in the wrong airport terminal and had to make multiple trips in order to get both children and "stuff" transported to our temporary shelter/apartment situation. It was a long President's day
And after multiple trips to the doctor to be sure none of our children had tb, not to mention begging the superintendant of the Lewisville School Distric to allow our children to enter his schools without having closed on our home and with having our temporary housing arrangment outside his district, our kids look relieved to be out of the realm of homeschool, as evidenced here.
This all happened by about February 20. We haven't even gotten to closing on our house (a fun and exciting adventure that we hadn't anticipated) and then, of course, there is the actual moving in, which, it no longer being February, we are still in the middle of...

more to come, stay tuned.

Monday, March 10, 2008

She's back...

After six months of spotty reception, followed by a month of begging for John's computer at night to check email, I'm finally back on line! I can read your blogs, answer email, and even post a thought or two.

I'll try to give you a view of the "state of our union" in the days to come. We are living in boxes, while trying to keep floors swept and kids in school before the tardy bell rings...days are flying by and nights go just as quickly. They say this is supposed to happen when you're having fun...hmmmm

see you again, and soon.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

like Christmas Morning...

We've been "in" our house now for 6 days and counting. The movers hauled all our stuff in last Thursday. The kids came home from school and started tearing into said stuff like it was Christmas morning. I, in my intense panic for control and organization amidst chaos starting hollering "wait, let me come help, don't open all the boxes at once, we'll lose stuff in the packing paper, hold on, slow down, go away..." but all those shouts were lost in the sound of massive amounts of packing paper being thrown to the floor as boxes were torn into so kids could find;

1. a stuffed dog, Max, who has been sorely missed.
2. The television set, so the kids could set up the wii Santa brought them for Christmas last December.
3. A pair of brand new shoes, not out of the box, which are deeply desired for use.
4. American girl dolls and paraphanelia-how did they survive in those boxes?
5. A missing "genke" or blanket, loved by Molly
6. Anything that could make noise or flash lights-TOYS

Within an hour i had the kids stashed back in the car to sleep in the corporate apartment we've had this last week. I couldn't stand to have them continue to reak havoc in the already overwhelming bounty of stuff/boxes/mess/chaos. they cried all the way back to the 3rd floor apartment where they can't jump or even walk hard on the floors for fear of upsetting the downstairs neighbor. having thumps on our floor to remind us to "keep it down" was more welcome to me then having my children rip into the boxes...

guess it wasn't so much like Christmas morning for me