Tuesday, July 4, 2017

The Heartbeat of America

One of my favorite things in the entire universe is waking up at my parents' house and enjoying the picturesque view with a cup of coffee. Then I like to check cows.

My parents would be the first to tell you I probably wasn't much of a farmhand growing up. A set of knees and elbows don't lend themselves well to manual labor. But as I've gotten older I long for the days of working cattle and just being on the farm. (Side note: For those of you from Texas, we call everything a "farm" where I'm from. You have a crop farm or a cattle farm. For those of you from Arkansas, people from Texas are very particular about a farm versus a ranch.)

I grew up in this little community called Jethro. Back in the day Jethro had a schoolhouse and post office, but that was way before my time. Now Jethro has a few family farms, access to the Mulberry River, a Pentecostal church, and nostalgia of hay meadows and friendly neighbors (half of whom are related). Every time we plan a visit back home, my mom asks what I want to do. Every answer has some version of riding 4wheelers to see the cows and the neighbors, and no trip would be complete without Mrs. Helen coming for breakfast at least once.

A couple of weeks ago we finally got to go back. It was the longest stretch of my life without being in Arkansas--6 hard months. Some may laugh at that, but I was having one of the most homesick spells of my life. Mom knew I was homesick something fierce, so she scheduled for their hay to be cut as we were getting into town. My heart exploded from the smell of freshly cut hay (one of my two favorite smells--I also love the smell of horse sweat).

During the week Cash and I took out on the gator by ourselves in what I would call the longest date we've had since having 2 children. We checked cows (well, we will say check loosely), rode around the farm, drove to the river, and stopped at the cemetery. It was at this stop that I realized so much of what I love today, despite now being 600 miles away, is because of this little community.

Oak Ridge Cemetery, across from JCC
My first time I ever voted was right there in Jethro, Arkansas, in the community building. At the time it wasn't even as nice as it is now. I remember a lot of older folks working the polls and people bringing in homemade pies for the workers. I remember a stove that helped heat the place. I remember voting for George W. Bush, and although my vote was only 1 of millions I felt a part of something so much bigger than me. (Who knew less than 10 years later I'd be living in his hometown? Smaller world than I thought.)

Jethro Community Center

Jethro Community Center

Throughout college I would drive home on election days and vote right there in the Jethro Community Center. I grew to love politics, and it is no doubt that that love was revealed while checking a ballot in a place most of America doesn't even know exists. Well, there and in my parent's living room where my dad and I would talk politics in great detail only to have my mom annoyed and frustrated by the 4th hour of Fox News.

Although I hold to the nostalgia of the Jethro Community Center, it is only one of thousands of places just like it. All across America folks are voting in churches, libraries, city halls, and fair buildings. Heck, my great uncle even had a barn that his community voted in. It's places like these that make up America. Places that even though they are so far removed from voter ID laws they don't even know why they became law, they still make their second cousin show ID because, well, it's the law.

It is the Jethro community centers across America that thousands of us go vote and collectively prove that democracy is not dead. That even with a difference of political opinion, we can still share a great homemade pecan pie. It is where little girls and little boys go with their parents when they vote and then grow up to love politics. Maybe they even become politicians who enact laws, or maybe they become stay at home moms who read books to their children about our country's history. It is a place that we get to share with those who came before us in a process that so many others have never had the freedom to do. It is all these little places that politicians forget exist that really make our country go 'round.

This year on the 4th of July we will gather at baseball games and parades and fireworks shows and be thankful for our freedoms. We may long for a departed soldier who is halfway around the world or visit one who came home in a way we had not hoped. No doubt we will unite in that this is the best country in the world only to go back to our differences tomorrow. America, what a funny country. The place where we debate politics on big stages in front of large crowds, yet the scores of those debates are settled in small towns with infinitely smaller community buildings with nothing but a person and a secret ballot to know what was marked.

It has become cliche and overused, but my gosh am I proud to be an American. Thank you to all those who paved the path for our freedoms yesterday and all those who still fight for them today.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

The Greatest of These Is Love

Y'all. I was cleaning up the house tonight and got into the nursery closet. I have all of the cards from both babies and kept saying I wanted to organize them, so tonight ended up being randomly selected.

As I dug into AL's side of the stash, I was overwhelmed with the feeling of love. I read through cards so many of you sent. I found contracts with the funeral home. I thumbed through books we were given about infant loss. These very things held us together during that difficult time.

I put my mind back there, to the place we lived in a mere 8 months ago. My stomach lumped to my throat as I heard AL in the living room with her dad as I read through these reminders of how close we were to not hearing those laughs or kissing those chubby cheeks.

I sat there in that little closet reminiscing too on the absolute love that filled our souls then and still does. Sometimes we don't realize how much a card or phone call or smile means to someone. But for me your words, your love, kept me going and gave me strength. And as AL came into this world, the cards and sweet gifts didn't stop. You all have loved us so well.

Maybe I've said thanks before, but I can never say thanks enough.

I get tired and frustrated. Sometimes I complain about checkups and blood work and prescription refills. I would do a lot of things just to get a nap. I may have even flipped out on the girl at the Wal-Mart pickup today because I absolutely did not want to go inside with 2 babies. I've told Henry too many times that I have household chores to do and I can't read a book right then. In the middle of the night my first emotion of being hurled from my sleep is not "Oh, how blessed we are."

But my goodness. How much was I reminded tonight of the loved poured on us? Love is the greatest gift God gave us. And y'all gave it abundantly (and you still do). Thank you.

AL says THANKS too for the love and prayers!

Friday, June 2, 2017

Walking the Green Mile

Finally we are headed out of Houston. It was a busy few days, and although we are thankful for the care it is time to go home. (Well, actually on to Austin, but then HOME!)

We started Wednesday at the pediatric dentist as AL's physical therapist noticed she has a lip tie. The dentist confirmed this and also noticed a tongue tie. So I got to help hold her down while the dentist lasered them both. I had in my mind this would be painless for AL. It wasn't. At all. It basically cauterized her. So I felt terrible about it all despite knowing it had to be done. That little baby has been through it already.

The next day AL had her first big girl ultrasound. Obviously they did a gazillion when I was pregnant and a couple in the NICU, but this is the first once since. She was such a big girl watching Paw Patrol and never had a care in the world. She is already such a sweet, calming spirit. Lord knew that we needed that.

Getting ready

No worries when cartoons are on!

Her nephrologist was very pleased with her progress. Her kidneys are growing well! Her right kidney is still good and the left is still dilated. But, hey, all you need is 1 so we will take it for now.

We had been concerned that she would need a low sodium diet, but based on her creatinine and electrolyte levels both the nephrologist and dietician said for now she can have a normal diet. This was great news.

I remember in college I went on a few dates with a guy who could not have sodium, and the more I thought about it the more I didn't think that was a possibility for me. So, obviously, relationship ended. But I felt so bad for this guy having to cook everything from scratch and never getting to eat pizza rolls. That sounds ridiculous, but it worried me with AL. I am thankful that at this point we are throwing extra salt on our chips at Dos Compadres.

As we got off the elevator we decided to pop our heads into the fetal center to say hi to Dr. Johnson, our Houston fetal specialist (and co-director of the fetal center) who first told us her condition was no longer fatal, and Blair, the sweet genetic counselor who saw us through the amnioscentesis and genetic testing (and even helped us find housing). Dr. Johnson had convinced us to deliver in Houston despite some talk that it may not be necessary, and every day of my life I'm thankful he did. We had some rough patches after delivery while there, but once I called Dr. Johnson he personally ensured we were well taken care of. (Sadly, McDreamy wasn't there yesterday.)

Dr. Johnson, our Houston fetal specialist

Blair, our Houston genetic counselor

This morning we had a checkup with urology to mostly discuss a possible abdominoplasty. While we had hoped this would happen near her first birthday, it looks as though we will keep monitoring and discussing until closer to her second birthday. He also talked with us about going to his clinic instead of the medical center and getting back to our NICU nephrologist instead of the one we were placed with after her hospital stay. For this we were thrilled!

I have lots of feelings about Houston. The medical center brings out the most emotion. Last time I could barely handle it, but this time it was almost therapeutic. I love Houston and I hate it.

Houston is too big for me. All the people on top of each other in a cloud of humidity just makes me feel disgusting. It is where we learned AL has Prune Belly and where I stormed out of the NICU mad and in tears. It is miserable.

But it is also where we spent our last days as a family of 3. It is where we were told officially God gave us a miracle and that AL would make it. It is where I made a friend in the girls at Magpies in Bellaire. It is where our children first met each other, first hugged, first knew how to instinctively love. In these ways I love that place.

The day we packed up our house in Bellaire to go home to Midland, I sat and cried. So much had happened. We had lived a mere 3 weeks in that house but our lives had been changed forever. It was our bubble and a time in our lives that stands out from the others. No comforts of home or friends with dinners greeted us when we brought AL into that little house. It was the place where the only people who knew our family of 4 existed was us. So when we go back and are in that life again, it is as if our normal life pauses and our Houston life comes out of a dream. I feel like I didn't just fantasize that it all happened. Our reality becomes real again.

On Thursday morning Cash took Henry to Hermann Park while I took AL to her ultrasound. As I carried her down the windy skybridge, I reflected on the other times we had been on the same walk. The first time I ever ventured down that long walk with her was as we walked in as 2 young, nervous parents going in for the induction. Then for a week I walked those halls without her. Those walls saw tears of sorrow as I left my baby girl in the hospital, tears of fear as we learned of her diagnosis, and tears of joy as we finally got to take her home. This time she and I walked in together again, and I felt God remind me of all the times He had been there on that walk with us. That walk, which used to be my green mile, is now my parade of triumph.

Walking the skybridge together again

Hermann Park
Picking up my stay at home dad from the park

Houston, until next time...

Avery Jane

Monday, May 29, 2017

The Love of an 11 Year Old

I'm sitting here tonight at a near loss for words. Eleven years ago today my niece Addison was born. I was excited to have my first niece...and not so secretly glad she missed my own birthday by a day. I had been sharing with her brother already, even though his birthday is 5 months after mine. To his Nana it would be my birthday but Braeson's 7 month birthday, so I got to share. You can imagine when Addi came along shortly thereafter, I hoped with all my might it wouldn't be the exact day. I figured my mom wouldn't even know I existed by then let alone bake me a cake.

Yet for 10 years I have shared a celebration with Addi anyway, and I wouldn't have it any other way. Since I moved to Texas nearly 5 years ago, Cash and I have gone to Arkansas every single year on Memorial Day weekend to celebrate our birthdays. Except this year. AnnLouise has checkups in Houston this week, so it just seemed daunting to travel that much.

To add to the non-celebration, Addi only asked for money this year. I kept begging her to let me get her something else, but she insisted on money because she "wanted souvenirs at the beach." I couldn't believe she had already gotten to the age where all she wanted was money. I kept wondering when did she get that old?

My mom hosted dinner for Addi tonight and had told me they really wanted to Skype with the kids if possible. So I called when we got a chance.

As we started talking and I "sang" Happy Birthday to Addi, she told us she may have lied a little bit about why she wanted money for her birthday. Okay, I thought, she wanted a computer or something. But instead of a computer or sewing machine or iPad, she told us she was taking all $418 she got for her birthday...

And donating it to prune belly syndrome research.

Just typing that my tears are uncontrollable. I could barely use words to finish our conversation.

Over the past few months I've been consumed with so many things that either were centered around how I was handling AL's diagnosis or frustration just on things out of our control. Yet here was my niece who was crushed when she learned AL wouldn't make it, who prayed for her so hard, who had crocheted a hat for AL before she was born, who drove to Texas just to hold the little miracle..and now she had spent these past few months preparing to donate her birthday money on AL's behalf.

In that moment I learned a lot about love. And maturity.

I also realized it wasn't just AL or me or Cash or Henry who was affected by her story. It had hurt Addison too. It had broken her heart and shown her a miracle all at the same time. While I felt all alone many days as I sat in a puddle of tears, 600 miles away was a little girl who hurt just as bad. The difference in her and I was that she stood up and did something about it.

Addison, I love you. Thank you for being someone I can look up to.

Addi and AL

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The Truth About Things

Henry is back!! My boy went to Arkansas with his grandparents for 8 long days. Oh, I missed him. It is nice to hear his giggle again. I could totally do without the whining, but the giggles sure are great.
Playing with the goats at Aunt Sherry and Uncle Roger's house

Trying to teach Bumpy how to drive the gator

Basketball with Tyce

Chillin' with Braeson

Making Mac clean up his mess and telling her how to do it
While he was gone, we got to spend more time focusing on sissy girl. I don't know if I realized how bad I needed that. I got to ENJOY her instead of just keeping her alive. I got to learn how she likes to be put to sleep, her real nursing schedule, what her cries are. And most importantly I got to take moments and just watch her smile. That girl. Ooohhh. She's a soul stealer.

Sweet dreams

Sweet angel baby

I also had a revelation. Let me be very honest without judgment. This past week I learned that the number of kids you have equates to the average number of days you go between showers. 

Prior to children I showered daily. (Okay, like 6 days a week, but that's daily.) Zero children=zero days between showers.

Then came cute little Henry, my heartthrob. Once I learned that he really did not have to be held 23 hours a day, I was able to shower...some. 1 child=1 day between showers.

And then came baby AnnLouise, my angel. She doesn't just like to be held. She also likes to nurse forreevveerrr. By the time she is done nursing, Henry is ready to GO OUTSIDE! He basically is screaming that at me by the time she's done. Since I'm always balancing the two, I have a dilemma for myself: when Cash comes home for lunch, do I eat or do I shower? Of course my obvious choice here is to eat. So 2 kids=2+ days between showers.

On special days like today I got to choose neither eating nor showering. The kids were so good this morning (really). We were up, nursed, fed, clothed, and out the door by 9. 9! As I drove to the duck pond for a morning adventure, I was humbly bragging to myself when I realized I had zero idea the last time I showered. 

Then I thought, "No big deal. I'll shower when Cash comes home for lunch today! I will forego lunch for a good dose of Herbal Essence." Aside from the Jehovah's Witnesses soliciting at the park (what is that?! Why?!), no one in their right mind stopped to talk to us. The others took 1 look at a lady carrying a newborn while she wrangled a toddler on a leash and thought better about chatting it up. Not even when Henry all but tackled the dogs people were walking did someone attempt to even make eye contact with me. But not the Jehovah's Witnesses. They obviously saw I had small children because they shoved a child's coloring book in my one open finger. It did give me the false hope I didn't look too disgusting, so I decided to brave the shoe store.
This is a boy ready for an adventure.
Apparently kids grow so fast that they leave for 8 days and come back with toes curled in their tennis shoes and cry when you put them down to walk and start stutter stepping like they're on a bed of coals. When Henry started the hot potato dance in his tennis shoes this morning, I knew it was time. So off to Terry's we went. I got both kids out of the car, one in the stroller and one "helping me push", and walked to the door. Except when we got there it was closed. CLOSED!!!!! No warning. No reasoning. Just closed. 

As I pushed back a tear I told myself to just get in the car and get myself to Sonic for that overpriced crushed ice and it will be okay. In the interim Henry got so ticked at me for putting up the stroller that he decided running away was his best option. I may have had the cops called on me, because y'all, I didn't even care. I spanked his bottom right there in public. And he giggled about it.

I got all the way to Sonic when Cash called and offered to meet me at the baby store to check out shoes. We ended up just meeting at Dillard's and calling it a morning. The girl working the kid's shoes at Dillard's was obviously worried about working her way up the corporate ladder based on her customer service skills. We stood 3 feet from her the whole time and she didn't speak a word to us. She actually left at one point and the girl from the section over had to help us. Maybe it was me. Like I said it had been a minute or two since my last shower. 

As we were leaving Dillard's with 2 new pairs of shoes, I couldn't help but laugh that this morning when I woke up I didn't even know Henry had outgrown his shoes. And within 4 hours here I was at Dillard's with new shoes, 2 kids, my husband, and a really pitiful looking hairdo. 

We got home. Cash and Henry ate lunch while AL nursed. Somehow after Cash went back to work Henry got in his big boy bed and fell asleep without even being rocked. I realized I hadn't eaten, so given the chance I went to town on some leftovers and only had to hold 1 kid. AL decided she didn't want to take a nap in her swing...she prefers naps in momma's arms. So that's where we are. And. I still haven't showered. Maybe tonight. 

Avery Jane

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The Closing of a Chapter

Three months ago I was at home with Henry when I got a call from Cash. I heard him shut his office doors, so I knew it was serious.

"Have you seen the news?"
"The company just announced that it is selling."

I sat in a state of shock for, well, going on 3 months now. During this time we have temporarily relocated to Houston, had another baby, brought said baby back to Midland, and made yet another trip to Houston for a check-up. While we had so much going on with AnnLouise, on our minds for 90 days has been the closing of a chapter, the end of an era.

learning the ropes with my favorite rockhound
It would be easy to sit here today and hang our heads about the pure sadness of Clayton Williams Energy selling. Instead we will reflect on our time and reminisce on so many incredible memories that the past decade has brought. CWEI was one of the last companies from the old wildcatter days, and much like the man at the helm the company itself was truly unique.

I can't talk about CWEI without talking about the culture. After 10 years Cash was still one of the young guys. Many people have spent the past 20+ years calling CWEI home, and it was obvious throughout the office that it was truly a home to most. The culture and family atmosphere was never discussed or pushed; it just...was.

Cash was blessed to work directly for a great man, Sam. When Cash was in college and went in for an interview to intern at CWEI, Sam's one and only question was, "How much do you want to make?" I think they settled on something like 10 bucks an hour, and that was the beginning of one of the most impressionable relationships Cash has ever had.

Sam with Henry at the 2016 crawfish boil
After two summers of interning, while Cash was back at UTA finishing his last semester, Sam called him and offered a full-time position. No questions. No doubts. Cash took it and never looked back.

The next decade brought fishing trips, ranch parties, deer camps, political dignitaries, tequila shots, and a couple butt chewings or two. If you know much about Claytie Williams, you know his persona is big and mesmerizing. He ran his company the same way. Nothing was ever small, and nothing was ever predictable.

The first year Cash and I were dating he took me to the annual Ranch Party for Claytie's birthday. I had never seen anything like it. Way down close to Alpine, Texas, Claytie had invited a couple thousand of his closest friends to his ranch. That year the main entertainment was The Oak Ridge Boys. I couldn't believe it. People mingled around the ranch listening to The Oak Ridge Boys in this private concert like it was normal. It was not normal for a small town schoolteacher like myself. It was the coolest thing I had ever done. Claytie brought in another band to play the dance that took place on the tennis courts (because why wouldn't you have a tennis court on your ranch?!). So all night we danced and talked and ate and drank.

Ranch Party 2011

the buffet at the ranch parties

Claytie doing Claytie things

Oak Ridge Boys at the 2011 Ranch Party

Barbara and I hanging with the ORB

another year, another Ranch Party
Ranch Party 2013

mariachi band--a must for any CWEI event

Clint Black at the 2012 Ranch Party
Another perk of the job was fly-fishing trips to Wyoming, although the mass of people was scaled down tremendously. Claytie flew a group up to Q Creek Ranch, a remote destination in Wyoming which he used to own. Once there the group would spend their days fly-fishing or prairie dog hunting, and the nights would be spent listening to stories about the good ol' days or to local bands, maybe play a few hands of poker, take shots of tequila, whatever the night may bring.

Cash and one of his brown trout

Q Creek Ranch

Cash and his rainbow trout
back to Q Creek Ranch for a deer hunt
In the fall Claytie would host a deer camp on one of his ranches where some employees would get to hunt the enormous ranch via old Land Cruisers. Their guides would be the "big dogs" of the company, the senior guys who had been with him for decades. Typically Cash's boss Sam would be his guide, and they would drive around all day looking for just the right one. At night they would bring in folks to pick guitars around the campfire and they would eat feasts cooked in the back of a chuck wagon by the camp cooks.

Sam and my FIL, Big Russ

Cash slaying those Texas mule deer

Sam guiding for Little Johnny
I'll never forget the days Cash would come home and say some big political figure had been in the office. It became so common to him that if it was "just the lieutenant governor" then he seldom mentioned it.

During the recent oil boom I never knew what story Cash would have that day. One afternoon I got a call from work that he'd be home late because he had to drive a local philanthropist home who took so many tequila shots (chased with beer) in the war room with Claytie that he couldn't stand up. Some days he would tell me about Claytie telling them to come into the war room for a meeting, but to enter they had to tell a dirty joke first. Once he even called and invited me to happy hour with him, his boss, and a couple of the engineers. When I got there, they had been there for some time. His boss bragged on him and the younger engineer saying they had just had a record quarter all because of those two. I was so proud of Cash for his hard work, and I knew this was the way things like that were celebrated at CWEI. However, this was much milder celebrating than years past. Afterall this is the CEO who once made a deal at the urinals in The Bar, so that acreage block was termed the Urinal Tract. That's how things were.
with Modesta at a Ranch Party
Every December Claytie would have Santa come into the atrium of ClayDesta where the kids could have their picture taken. Christmas parties of course were never what I had known in my past life, and like most other parties you could count on a mariachi band. That was typical Claytie--a mariachi band.

Henry's first time to meet Santa and Mrs. Claus
Oh, there were hard days too. Cash is the type of guy who is never too high or too low. He is just pretty laid back. So it caught me by surprise when I begged him one day for a story on a bad day he had had; I really didn't think the guy had bad days. The story started with a few of them having to call Claytie and tell him about a major mistake they had made on a well. And it ended with Claytie telling them to never call him with that kind of news again; instead just shoot themselves in the blankety blank head next time they do something so stupid.

Yet it didn't matter what kind of day he had, Cash loved working at CWEI. He loved that Sam threw him in on day 1 all those years ago and let him learn horizontal drilling by doing it and making mistakes. He loved Friday afternoons when Sam would say, "Hey, today let's go golfing instead." He even loved those mornings at 2 AM when the rig would call, and he would have to get up and start steering the well. It was not all fun and games. It was definitely a work hard, play hard kind of business. Cash loved it, mostly because he really loved the people he was doing it with.

Yesterday before his boss left he came in and gave Cash a hug. After 25 years Sam's life at CWEI came to a close. When Cash told me about saying goodbye to him, I just wept. After all the wells drilled and trips taken and parties enjoyed and meetings had, they ended with a hug. It is hard to watch your husband talk about saying goodbye to the person he respected more than anyone.

In our near 5 years of marriage I've often asked Cash if he would be willing to look for another job. "No. I am loyal to Sam." And he never did. Even when the company made paycuts across the board because the bust had hit them where it hurt, he never even considered looking. Until 3 weeks ago his only interview in his life had been the one where Sam's only question had been how much did he want to make. So today we close a chapter of our lives. We will forever hold these years dear to us as we reflect on a decade of memories and friendships that will last a lifetime.

Thank you, CWEI and all of your many people who became family to us. We love you. We will miss you. And we will always remember you.

Oh...and piss on Obama.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Back to Odessa

Update from my last post: my sister became curious what made their house safe and warm to her kids. My nephew Braeson, with his 12 years of wisdom, informed her the only thing he likes is the pool. Well, Sister, you win some and you lose some. (For the record, I think he mistakenly left out the fact he can see his Nana's house from his window. Anyone who knows Braeson knows THIS is the best thing about his house.) 

Those teenage years are going to be fun.

Speaking of teenage years, I have been thinking lately how God gives us such Grace in our fleeting memories. Being in the middle of these first few weeks and months with AL made me reflect on those times with Henry. I remember those times with Henry being much easier than they are this time around. I kept wondering what we were doing wrong with AL that we did right with Henry. Then it hit me. I simply don't remember the first few months of his life. 

Sure, I remember how cute he was. I remember him getting cradle cap and wondering if this was the start of my failure at motherhood (ha!). I remember he couldn't roll over or run away yet so changing him was a breeze. But I seriously do not remember nights before he was sleeping 6 straight hours. And that means that I don't remember nights the first 2 months of his life. I'm starting to realize I don't remember nights with AL even from last week. 

My sister-in-law told me a while back that she only remembers a blur from when her kids were this age. "Nah, not me," I thought. "I'm soaking it in." But I'm not. Apparently I'm surviving just like every other parent of babies. And that is okay! I see this as God's grace. If we remembered the hardest moments, we would only have 1 kid. Instead God allows us to remember the love and the fun, and we decide that hey...that was fun and totally doable, so let's do it again (and for some of you...again, again, again). Then we end up with these sweet families with multiple children, no sleep, and a lot of great times together. 

Then they become teenagers. Yet again God shows us Grace. While He is pruning us for patience, He is also allowing us to forget those years potty training or learning how to not run straight into the street or figuring out what goes in the trash and what doesn't (like, Mom's phone doesn't go in the trash but the diapers do). When our kids get bigger, we remember ice cream trucks and baseball games and Santa Claus. But never the time your toddler slapped you in the face when you tried to kiss him. When they are teenagers, we can't believe the aliens they have become. 

Then they become adults. And we probably remember that the teenage years weren't the best, but we also remember how fun it was to pick out prom dresses and make team meals before football games and do real, adult stuff together for the first time. So when you leave them at the dorm that very first night, you leave in a pile of tears because God has allowed us selective memory. We remember the Sundays together in church, but we forget the fights trying to get there. 

It is God's goodness, His love for us, His grace that allows us to so easily remember the good and let go of the bad. So, Braeson, right now you may think that pool is the only good thing about your house. But one day you'll remember the nerf gun wars with an unsuspecting victim, the 4wheeler rides to Nana and Bumpy's, the chopping down of trees with your machete (although I still can't understand why you have a machete?! Because you're a little cray cray). Oh, you may hate when Mom makes you do your homework at the kitchen table now, but one day all you'll remember about that table are the meals your parents made for you and the conversations that surrounded it. 

It wasn't that long ago (like January) when we were going to Odessa every week for ultrasounds. I loathed weekly appointments. It seemed never ending at the time. But we loved our doctor and genetic counselor and ultrasound tech. Today we went back to let AnnLouise meet them. When we walked in, I barely remembered what it was like to go. Every. Single. Week. No, I just remembered the best day of my life when Oscar saw her bladder had gone down and it was ultimately confirmed it wasn't fatal. 

When AL got to meet both Dr. Bruner and Oscar, it was surreal. Like this bringing together of a dream of what AL would be like and the reality of the beauty that she is. It was like the past met the present. 

Before Oscar got to Odessa, he face timed AL. We couldn't fathom leaving before he got there though.

AL meeting her biggest fan, the one who first thought her bladder had shrunk. Oscar, we love you.

She knew his voice immediately. Loved watching her meet Dr. Bruner.
We will forever be thankful for all Dr. Bruner and his team did for us and for the foresight to send us to Houston. It was a hard journey, but it would have been impossible without the perinatal center way out here in West Texas. 

So today, my favorite things are AnnLouise Scout meeting those who kept us all going those hard, trying months and walking back into the office where God's miracle was discovered. And walking in there with that miracle in my arms.

Avery Jane

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Count Your Many Blessings, Name Them One By One

Cash and I have really been enjoying that new show on HGTV, Home Town. Last night I was reading about the Napiers and saw that she has kept a list since 2010 of the best thing that happened each day. Now, I don't have the energy to write those thoughts down on the daily, but I thought what a neat idea to at least contemplate the best every day has to offer.

When I was growing up, I loved where I lived. I loved my parents' house, my small town, Arkansas in general. I was never the one who couldn't wait to get out of my hometown. Actually I was the exact opposite. In college I went home almost every weekend because I just loved it so much. It was peaceful to me.

So you can imagine how hard it was when Cash and I got engaged to realize I would never live there again. I knew my life would be in an oilfield somewhere. I wouldn't trade my life with Cash out here in West Texas for anything, but I struggled a great deal (and if I'm honest, sometimes I still do) leaving the beauty of the Ozarks and the comfort of my utopia.

My hometown is perhaps one of the most gorgeous places on earth. I tell people that and often they chuckle because they have this image of Arkansas. I get it. But in my opinion folks are really missing out not experiencing the Pig Trail on a beautiful fall day. (Trust me, Google it.)

Ozark is settled in at the foot of the Ozark Mountains with the Arkansas River running along its southern border. While the river bridge is an often photographed portion of the town and beautiful in and of itself, I have always favored the mountains. And my most favorite place to view these mountains is on the front porch of my parents' farm. Looking over a hayfield, beyond the tree line where the forest begins, you can watch the rain roll across the mountains on a summer day or bask in the glory of those hills wrapped in a blanket on a cool Fall morning. No matter the season. No matter the weather. That front porch and mom's sweet tea are my favorite things in this world.

Arkansas River bridge in Ozark
Jethro Farms

A shot of the Ozark Mtns from Upper Jethro Road (yeah, really, Upper Jethro)

Moving to West Texas has had its own joys. The sunsets (I don't tend to be up in time to watch the sunrise...never been a sunrise kind of girl) are exquisite, and the desert has a beauty all its own. But I often long for a cool morning with my mom sitting on her front porch. If I was making a list of the best things in life, that would be at the top. Every time.

So lately I've been trying to find things that can give my kids a feeling of warmth and home. As I've grown up I've learned I can't recreate Ozark. I have to take Midland for being Midland and find the beauty in that. But how do I make this a warm, inviting home for my children? What are they going to grow up and remember about home? What is it every day that makes it a great day?

Last night Cash decided to get grilling season started at our house, and he made a slam dunk with pork chops, green beans, and corn on the cob all grilled to perfection. We decided to eat outside and enjoy family time in the wonderful Spring weather. It was so peaceful. When we were going to bed, I told Cash eating outside was my very favorite thing from today.

It was Henry's favorite too. I knew because he began crying as soon as we picked him up to go inside and didn't stop crying until he was asleep. I promised him I would take him out the next morning for breakfast.

As soon as I picked him up out of his crib this morning he began signaling MORE MORE! I sat his high chair up, whipped up some breakfast, made a cup of coffee, grabbed AnnLouise from her basket, and sat outside with my little loves. H enjoyed his breakfast listening to the chicken cluck (oh yeah, we have a chicken?!) and watching the dogs play.

After he was done, he ran around checking eggs and exploring the backyard. It is not quite noon, but I think breakfast outside with my 2 little loves, a couple dogs, and a chicken named Popeye will be my favorite thing today.

A boy and his dog

Man on a mission

Sissy girl enjoying the morning

Checking for eggs

Getting quite the collection

So, I may not be Erin Napier and writing this down every day. But it has already been uplifting to think about the best things of today. I'm counting my blessings and naming each one of them, naming them one by one.

Avery Jane