I’m Coming home soon!

The day before leaving for this trip, I found myself very anxious.  It’s funny how before I had kids I was ready and willing to hop on a plane anywhere and try anything.  But now that I have three tiny lives who are dependent on me, I find myself much more cautious.

But, I must say, this has been an amazing trip.  Yes, it’s been a vacation.  I’ve been childless for an entire week for heaven’s sake!  But it hasn’t been a lay-on-the-beach-and-drink-mai-tai’s-all-day-long kind of a vacation.

After seeing the work that my grandparents started 48 years ago, I feel a swell of pride bubbling inside me.  To have walked the path that the grandfather I never knew walked is so special and eye opening.  What they did and how they sacrificed is more than humbling.  My grandparents were 33 and 31 years old when they left for the islands.  Their children ranged in age from 12 to 2.  And they gave themselves wholeheartedly to their mission.

And I find myself wondering – what am I doing to carry on that legacy?  It’s sobering.

As we walked the streets of Kew, Bottle Creek, Lorimers, Bambarra, Conch Bar and South Caicos, we stopped and spoke with the people sitting outside (they all sit outside because my Lord it’s hot down here).  All my mom had to say was “I’m Jim Cooper’s daughter,” and people would throw their heads back, grin and say “Oooooohhh, I knew your daddy.”

They remember him.  After 48 years, they remember him.  He died 36 years ago –  but they remember him. 

More than a few people told us that my granddad worked harder and accomplished more in the 12 years he spent in the islands than most people accomplish in a lifetime.  “It’s as if he knew that his time on this earth would be short,” they said.

Perhaps he did – or maybe, he just understood and respected the call on his life and wasn’t afraid to tackle it with fervor.

Tonight we are back in Provo.  Tomorrow will be vacation day.  I’m going to park my behind on a beach chair and try and process the thoughts and emotions swirling through my overloaded brain. 

I’m coming home Tuesday night and I’m so excited to see the sweet faces of my babies and hear their precious laughter.  I love my kids and I can’t wait to hug their little necks.  Oh, and Lee?  Deep breath, babe – I’ll be home soon!

Another Story from the Mission Field

After the first year of living in South Caicos, my grandmother realized that my mom and her older brother needed a better education than she could provide. So she and my grandfather made the difficult decision to send their kids back to the States for boarding school.

But how to get them home was an issue. In the early ’60′s, Caicos was hardly a booming tourist hot spot. There were no major airports, and even if there had been, they had little money transport the children back and forth.

So my grandparents took a gigantic leap of faith. It’s something that I couldn’t fully appreciate until I became a mother myself.

On occasion, small planes would land on a small, beach landing strip in S. Caicos. When it came time for the kids to head back to school, they had to pack their suitcases and be ready at all times. If a small plane landed on the beach, Poppy Jim would race to meet the pilot and ask him where he was going, and if he had room for two young children. If the pilot said yes, my grandfather would zoom back to the house, blaring his horn, which was his signal for the kids to grab their bags and leave.

Crazy, huh?

One does not do that unless he has full faith in God to keep his children safe.  My mom was only 11/12 and her brother is two years older.  They were very small.

When the kids arrived in Miami, they would get word to their parents that they made it, then they left to live with grandparents for the school year.

The deal they had with their parents was that they could come home at Christmas and for summer break.  But, in 1962, it looked like the funds would not be there to bring the kids home.  On December 10, 1962, after realizing that the supply ship with the food was not going to arrive on time once again, my grandmother wrote:

I can see why many missionaries give up and go home.  The discouragements and disappointments that come all at one are more sometimes than we can take.  I thank the Lord for His sustaining Hand.  Hellp me, O Lord, to be more thankful and more patient!

Poppy Jim was in the States at this point, with Mimi under the impression that he was picking up a few supplies and going to see the kids.  He was scheduled to return on December 14, but, as was always possible in the Caribbean, there was a possibility that he would miss his flight or his flight would be cancelled.  And Mimi feared this disappointment dreadfully.  December 14, 1962 she wrote:

Breakfast is over and I’ve washed my hair and I’m trying to dry it so I’ll look nice to meet the plane.  I’m almost afriad to get out of the truck for fear he won’t be on the plane.  I wouldan’t want the villagers to see how disappointed I’d be!!  I may sit in the truck and then I could cry if I like.

What she didn’t know is that Poppy Jim had scraped together enough funds to bring her kids home as a surprise.  Here is what she wrote in the next entry:

He brought my kids home!  My baby brought my kids home!  My Dusty and my own Candy.  Thank you, Lord – Thank you for the best Christmas present ever.  My kids and food, too!  Food for all of us – we’ll have a party!

That last part always makes me cry…

Wordless Wednesday: What We’ve Been Up To

It’s been a busy summer so far…

Visiting Lone Elk Park and hanging with a herd of Elk

Visiting Lone Elk Park and hanging with a herd of Elk

 

Walking on the dock at Lone Elk Park to see a turtle.  Suddenly, like a bad Hitchcock film turtles popped up all around us - no less than 20, including a rare and endangered Alligator Snapping turtle!
Walking on the dock at Lone Elk Park to see a turtle. Suddenly, like a bad Hitchcock film, turtles popped up all around us – no less than 20, including a rare and endangered Alligator Snapping turtle!
We also saw this baby Copperhead, which is one of the most venomous snakes out there. It swam inches from our feet - awesome...
We also saw this baby Copperhead, which is one of the most venomous snakes out there. It swam inches from our feet – awesome…
Sloan and Daddy got to go to Sloan's first Cardinals game with his baseball teammates.  He thought it was the coolest. thing. EVAH!
Sloan and Daddy got to go to Sloan’s first Cardinals game with his baseball teammates. He thought it was the coolest. thing. EVAH!
Daddy and Landon hung out and watched the Gaithers on the internet. Yes, Lee's passing on his love for old Southern Gospel music to his offspring!
Daddy and Landon hung out and watched the Gaithers on the internet. Yes, Lee’s passing on his love for old Southern Gospel music to his offspring!
Tia's homedone haircut is finally growing out a bit and is actually looking quite cute.
Tia’s homedone haircut is finally growing out a bit and is actually looking quite cute.
And finally, we grilled out for Father's Day. Nothing says celebration like some juicy red meat, right?
And finally, we grilled out for Father’s Day. Nothing says celebration like some juicy red meat, right?

Hope you’re all having a lovely summer!

Why I’m in Turks & Caicos

A few months ago, my mom asked me if I would like to accompany her on a trip to trace the unique heritage of our family.  Her offer was even more enticing when she said that she and dad had enough miles saved up to get our plane tickets for free. 

I’m a smart girl – I know a good deal when I see one.  And so, with the blessing of my husband, I jumped on the opportunity to go to Turks and Caicos islands in the Carribean where my grandparents were pioneer missionaries in the early 1960′s.

All I can say is thank God they weren’t pioneer missionaries to the Arctic because this trip would be far less appealing…

In October of 1961, my grandparents, Jim and Betty Cooper, packed up their four young children and moved to South Caicos.  It is a small, primitive, yet beautiful, island in the Turks and Caicos chain.

Immediately they established their ministry, building a church, conducting backyard Bible clubs and inviting the islanders into their home as a part of their family.

My grandfather also travelled to other islands within the Caribbean, establishing himself as a gifted preacher and teacher.  To this day, my grandfather is well known, loved and remembered in the islands.

When in the islands, Poppy Jim realized that his job would be much easier if he had a small airplane so he could get from island to island with a little more ease.  So, he prayed for a plane and God provided.  Once he owned the plane, he taught himself to fly it.  This man was nothing short of extraordinary.

And if he was extraordinary, then my grandmother was the saint by his side.  When people hear that they were missionaries in the Caribbean, the first response is often, “Wow – they really suffered for Jesus, huh?” usually said with the utmost sarcasm.  But this was no resort life.  They had no electricity, no running water and sometimes very little food. 

I have my grandmother’s diaries from those years and every other day she writes about someone being sick.  The years were not easy – life was difficult.  But they loved their work and so they persevered with their calling.

My grandmother found 1,000 different ways to prepare SPAM, she served alongside her husband, a man she calls my darling over and over in her pages.  I admire my grandmother, who went to be with Jesus ins 2004, very much. 

While in South Caicos, my mom and her family lived in this house.  I hope it’s still standing.  South Caicos got hit pretty hard in the hurricane a couple of years ago so I’m not sure if it will be in tact or not – but I do hope.  Incidentally, have you ever seen more beautiful water in all the world

There are so many stories to tell about my family’s Caicos years.  I will probably write them out a little bit at a time over the next few months.  For now, though, I leave you the words of my grandmother, written on Friday, May 1962 when they had run out of food and were waiting on the supply ship to bring new rations:

Oh-I’m hungry! We haven’t eaten since 11:00 am yesterday.  We had some instant coffee in our suitcase so we had coffee and then took off to the beach for a “sea bath.” And I mean a bath.  We went in the sea and we also brushed our teeth with the salt water.  Then we took up our watch for the little green Crusader (supplies would arrive on this)-she became most precious for she held our food.

Jim finally arrived about 10:00 am and it wasn’t before 12:30 before we got our food.

Finally we ate. Peas and rice, canned beef, bread and hot orange Crush. I never knew realized that hot drinks could taste so delicious. Ah- food. We were about sick with hunger.

Today I will be in Provo, snorkling and Snuba-ing (we will dive down about 20 feet).  Tomorrow starts the quest into my heritage.  I’ll tell you more later.

To the Fathers in My Life

I am blessed.  I have been surrounded by wonderful men my entire life.  I’ve often thought that the reason that I’m just an okay writer and not a spectacular write is because I don’t have daddy issues.  The greatest writer’s all have so much angst, such heartache, and, often (not always, I know) they have severe daddy issues.

Not me.  And I’m okay with that.  Here are a few of the fathers in my life:

1.) My own father.  He’s a man of God.  He loves my mom and alwayspanish-wells-011s has.  He loves me unconditionally.  He is there for me at the drop of a hat whenever I need anything.  He’s my biggest supporter.

My dad is a great man.  He is extremely wise – more so than I think he knows.  He’s funny, sometimes in a sick and twisted way, but funny nonetheless. 

A few years ago, Lee and I came home from a trip to the condo and were watching back the video we took.  While on the beach one day, my dad took the camera so we could all be in the video.  Suddenly, a very pretty girl in a very skimpy bikini filled our screen along with my dad’s voice.  “Here you go, Lee,” he said.  “A vacation memory just for you…” At which point my mom broke in, “Richard!” The screen jumps. “What?” my dad asks, all innocent like.  “You’re supposed to be taping the baby.” My dad laughs, “Oh yeah…” And the screen focuses on Sloan once more. HA!

My dad was a hands on dad.  I hardly remember a big occasion that he didn’t attend.  I know there had to be some, because he travelled a bit when we were kids, but I don’t ever remember a time when I felt let down or disappointed by dad.  And I’m grateful for that.

I love you dad.  Enjoy your new toy and I’ll see you soon :) .

 2.) My father-in-law, Herb.  A man who many people find intimidating but who I know is nothing but a big teddy bear.  Herb is also full of wisdom and I’m always gratsledding-at-vlasis-045eful for the moments when we can sit and talk with him.

When I first met Herb, I was a 20 year old college kid who was just trying get in good with the family of the guy I had a crush on.  I fell equally in love with Lee’s family.  I lived with his parents for the summer before my senior year of college.  I’m so grateful for those weeks I spent in their home as it gave me a true appreciateion for my future father-in-law.

I love you, Herb.  I’m grateful to you for the wisdom you impart to us as a couple and individually to Lee.  Have a great Father’s Day!

3.) Last, but most certainly not least, I am thankful for my own dear husband – the father of my children.  A man who loves and supports me, who leads our family with the great wisdom that he gleaned from his father. 

Lee was created to be a dad.  He’s just so good at it!  He’s is a phenomenal father and it’s evident in the way that his kids adore him.  He plays with them tirelessly, he reads to them, disciplines them, loves them and laughs with them.  He models Christ to them and teaches them of God’s love.  He is a wonderful leader of our home and I pray that the kids all grow up to appreciate who their father is.

Here is short video of Lee in action.  The other night at bedtime, the kids wanted to read Puff the Magic Dragon, then they wanted to sing along to the CD.  Can you see why I love this man?

He’s Not Always This Cool

Last night Lee and I went to the Grand Opening of Shock City Studios, an amazing, state of the art recording and film editing studio owned and operated by Chris Loesch and parters.  Chris is married to Dana, my blogging guru and co-board member of the St. Louis Blogger’s Guild.

Lee and I were beyond impressed at the set up they have going on at Shock City.  I’ve been there several times due to the fact that Chris graciously donates us free space to conduct guild meetings in their building, but I had never seen the recording booths, sound room and editing room.  I was seriously in awe.

Recently, Shock City was named one of the top 16 new studios in the world by Mix Magazine, and after last night, I can see why.  It is a mighty impressive place and all involved in bringing that dream to fruition have every right to be very proud.

Because we were so close to downtown and I was wearing a kicky little dress that’s a wee bit short, which means I don’t get to wear it often, we decided to head toward the Arch and get a bite to eat.  Only neither of us were hungry so we drove around for a bit and finally settled on Lumiere Place, a huge Casino and hotel.

We tried our hand at the slots and after losing 10 bucks decided that gambling just isn’t for us and headed to a snappy little bar for a nightcap.  But we still weren’t hungry nor did we really feel like spending another 10 dollars per drink on cocktails so we finally just decided to head home.

As we stood up, Lee caught his foot on the edge of the table and started to fall.  Do you know what happens to a 6 foot 2 inch man who starts to fall and can’t get his footing?  Yeah, he just keeps going.

He finally managed to get his feet underneath him, but his head was pitched so far forward that he stumbled to the right, slammed into a table and steadied himself on all fours for a moment before popping back up, all the while splaying menus this way and that.

And what does a sweet wife do when her husband falls on his face in public?  Does she: A) Lovingly pick him up, brush him off and tend to his wounded pride? B) Continue walking at a brisk pace in the hopes that people don’t know she is with him? C) Ask him if he’s okay, then burst into hearty laughter?

Okay, the answer is C (isn’t that always the answer?).  Though options A and B did cross my mind.  I did make sure he wasn’t hurt before I cracked up.  As he handed the now destroyed menus to the waitress, who I’m pretty sure thought he was hammered, he said, “Don’t worry – I’m not always this cool.”

I love that man…

Head over to 5 Minutes for Giveaways to read the review I wrote up and enter to win a wooden pirate ship!

And stay tuned.  Even though I’ll be gone next week, I am planning on having a few posts scheduled ahead of time for your reading enjoyment.

You’re welcome…

(Nearly)Wordless Wednesday: 18 Months

Yesterday marked 18 months since we welcomed Landon into the world.  How I love this little boy.  He brings such joy to our household.  I fully expect him to be the class clown someday as he always good for a laugh. 

I wish I could freeze frame this time and keep him 18 months forever – but alas, I cannot.  So I celebrate him right now…because tomorrow comes way to fast.

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For more Wordless Wednesday visit 5 Minutes for Mom.

Remember when I said…

That I wouldn’t sleep this week, but would just power through until next week?  Yeah, what was I thinking?

I was up until 1:00 last night writing up this post.  There are some fascinating things happening in the world right now and Twitter is capturing all of it in real time.  (Go to Twitterfall and type in #iranelection.  Updates will automatically pour in without need to refresh.  So cool.)  Who needs the news when you can get up to the minute accounts from people who are actually in the line of fire?

This was the most journalistic post I’ve written since I began blogging and, I’ve got to say, it was a lot of fun.  But, it also reminded me why I did not major in journalism in college because the stress, Oy! 

I also had to complete a review for 5 Minutes for Mom, which should be posted in the next week or so.  Can I just say that I love writing?  Like, I really, really love it.  I always knew I liked it (heck, I’ve made a profession out of it) but the doors that are opening up through blogging are so exciting.

For the first time since becoming a mom nearly six years ago, I feel like I have something that is mine.  I’m interacting with people that don’t know me as Kelli the mom, but as Kelli the writer.  It feels good.  I feel energized and excited.

I also feel tired, though, so I’m going to turn off the computer, fold a load of laundry and take a nap while I have the chance.  Or maybe I’ll skip the laundry and just take the nap…Yeah, that sounds like more fun. 

Oh, and to the person who found me via Google by typing in the phrase “firm bottom wife tube”-Ummmmmm…did you get what you needed?  Yikes.

The Fun, the Not-So-Fun and the Bizarre

That’s a fairly accurate description of our weekend.

Let’s start with the fun, shall we?  I mean, since it’s my blog and all…

Ahem.

Friday night we headed to the Zoo for the Jungle Boogie concert and some animal sightseeing.  And it was perfect.  The weather was spectacular, the animals were in fine form and the music was great.  And I’d LOVE to show you some pictures, I really would…but I can’t because my camera batteries died and I’m out of AA batteries. 

Seriously – who runs out of AA batteries.  That’s gonna be a big hit against my run for Mom of the Year.

Moving on – hey guess what!?  The time of day to visist the Zoo is late afternoon/evening.  We usually go in the morning and the animals are always napping when we’re there.  Friday night, all of the animals were out and were playing and interacting with the kids.  A bear waved at us, a gorilla flirted with us – particularly Tia – the tigers were wrestling in the pond and the leopards stared back at us through their wired cages with blood thirsty eyes.

It was awesome!

The Bizarre also occurred on this night, however.  In the form of an older gentleman dressed in drag, dancing interpretively to the music.  It was obvious that he had some mental issues so we tried not to make a huge deal out of it, but honestly, it was hard not to stare.  It’s not often you see a man in a wig, tutu, tights, makeup and ribbons spinning circles in public.  It just isn’t…

Sunday morning, I had the privilege bad luck of serving at my son’s baseball field.  Chalk it up to Lee and I being newbies at this whole baseball thing, but I have to say I’m more than annoyed at the requirements they put on parents to work a shift. 

It’s one thing to ask us to come work the concession stand on a Sunday morning, something I’d be willing to do, but instead Lee and I were assigned to field duty (Each child is required to have a parent work two seperate shifts-which means Lee and I both had to do this on different days).  Do you know what field duty is?

It’s cleaning up the crap all over the field from the weekend.  And what’s more – it was me and one other woman left to remove the overflowing trash bags from no less than fifty oversized trash cans and take them to the dumpster (the only plus being that I got to zip around in a golf cart).  We were also supposed to pick any trash up off the ground, wipe down all tables, clean both bathrooms and sweep the sidewalks and dugouts.   Again, there were two of us.   

All I could think as I pulled out ant infested garbage and spilled two-day-old soda down my front is that I paid them to do this.  Seriously, you can’t tell me they’re not making enough money to hire a company to come in and clean up the fields on the weekends.

Oh, and the kicker?  If we don’t show up for our duty – no matter what the excuse may be – they will fine us anywhere from $150-$300.  Yes, so not only do they require that I work, but they threaten me if I don’t.  Unbelievable.

Next year we will be buying out of field duty, which also makes me angry because on top of the fees I’m paying for my son to play ball, now I have to pay them extra fees so I don’t have to work – and what will they do with the extra money?  I’m not sure, but obviously they’re not going to hire help.

Honestly, I do not mind a little grunt work, and, if needed, I’m happy to serve.  I worked hard yesterday to have a good attitude and not complain about the situation – even quoting over and over that I shall do all things to the glory of the Lord!  But expecting two people to clean up 10 fields (and I’m not just talking trash cans - there was rotting food all over the stands, the dugouts, under the stands, etc…) alone is beyond ridiculous.  And to the men who used the Ballwin field bathrooms yesterday – sorry, but those didn’t get cleaned.  I just wasn’t going to do it.

There is a fine line between encouraging parents to get involved and alienating them into feeling frustrated and used.  If you want us to feel a loyalty to you and to want to help serve, then you really shouldn’t shove a piece of paper in our faces with an unrealistic check-list on it and leave us a job better suited to a team of people, not two lone women.

And that’s all I have to say about that…

When Mama’s Away…

There is potential for the house to implode!

My husband is amazing – seriously, as husbands go, this guy is top notch.  He is super involved with the kids, extremely helpful and beyond capable of spending time alone with them.

But I fear I am pushing him by leaving for 8 days.  So, I’m doing all I can to make sure things are in order and to minimize the stress on my dear hubby.

And as I prepare, I’m amazed at how much “stuff” I do in a day.  Seriously, us moms have got it going on.  I don’t always do everything great – hence the fact that laundry is rarely ever completed and dinner is most often started around 5:00, etc…

But is it any wonder?  Seriously ladies – we do a lot.  Here is my to do list before I leave town in 10 days:

-Make and freeze a minimum of 6 meals.
-Stock up on daipers/pull-ups.
-Get the dog a haircut. Or a new home…No! That’s not right, she just needs a hair cut. *sigh*
-Go to the grocery store and make sure we have enough of everything so no trips to the store are needed while I’m gone.
-Meet with the two girls who are going to share kid-watching duties for me and walk them through the schedule.
-Write out a meal schedule so there is no thought/guess work into eating. I’ll write out a schedule for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Quick and easy.
-Coordinate Lee’s schedule with the sitters’ and with the friends who are going to take the kids on the couple of day when I didn’t get a sitter.
-Pack two separate diaper bags for Landon for the two days when he will not be at home.
-Write down all emergency numbers for sitters.
-Write down Sloan’s baseball schedule.
-Schedule a man-date for Lee one evening with another friend. He’s going to need a chance to get out and relax I think…
-Actually complete all the laundry and have it put away.
-Clean the house because I absolutly cannot leave with a messy home.
-Love on my kids and spend some quality time with them.
-Get the oil changed in my car because it’s over due.
-Write two reviews and two Say It Forward columns for 5 Minutes for mom.
-Pack my own suitcase.
-Make sure I have everything I need for my trip.
-Fill my husband with confidence that he absolutely can do this and that he’s going to have the time of his life being a single parent…ahem.
-Pray, pray, pray for safety in travels, good times for the kids, no major injuries while I’m gone and a relaxing, fun trip for myself and my mom. (We’re going to the Turks and Caicos islands where my grandparents were missionaries in the ’60′s. I very much look forward to getting a glimpse of my heritage.)

Whew.  And I feel like I’m forgetting something.  I’ve kind of decided that next week I just won’t sleep – but that’s okay, because I have a week at the beach to make up for lost rest.  Right?