Tuesday, December 29, 2015

My Country Song

I told Jeremy that I was going to work on writing a country song that lists our woes and celebrates our joys in our new home.  Thinking of a melody.  Some of the lyrics might go something like this:

Traveled less than 30 miles to a new and smaller home
Fresh paint, new carpet, rid of so much junk and dreams for where we'd go
Three months in and burglars took our electronics but left all of our tvs
Now a huge camera system has got our back so that we can just be
living in...

Dallas - we sure love you
Big trees, big leaves, big yard
Dallas - you're our favorite
wild winds, big rains, green grass
The power flickers and the lightbulbs burn out quick
The water costs in the city sure make our stomachs turn sick
But Dallas -
you're home now for us

The hardwood floors were perfect for a few months until they buckled up so bad
Not only can we not go upstairs, but the wall in the living room is compressing, so sad...
Foundation companies came to tell us their measurements aren't wrecked
"It's definitely not foundation - better get check your sewer lines checked"

Dallas - we sure love you
Deep puddles, water pressure, pinched floors
Dallas - you're our favorite
Three earthquakes in only six months (small ones)
The house does shake, the roof is covered in leaves
We're so thankful Alejandro and team are the one who cleans
But Dallas -
you're home now for us

A lady's walking by the house and says she's looking for a school
Tells me to ask my neighbor as she's a babysitter who's too tired to
Few weeks later a hooded man comes out of the dark as I'm walking the dog in the rain
I kick off my flip flops and run for my life as he doesn't seem real sane

Dallas - we sure love you
Friendly people, busy streets
Dallas - you're our favorite
These are only minor things
We have no doubt we're in the right place and God has given us so much grace
Oh Dallas -
you're home now for us.

Riley's Words

Riley's insight this morning:

"What's a good job where you don't have to work with people?  Cause I don't like working with people...

What I mean is that I don't like working with mean people who try to boss around.

I'm weird.  I like school.  No other kids like school."

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Goal Setting

Beginnings of goals for 2016
This is simply a think-page for some ideas towards next year's goals.

1) Free Goal Setting and Weekly Planning Worksheets - Click here
- love this free website!
- utilize these forms to create goals for the new year

2) Changing Current Habits
- spending less money on clothing
- spending more time with family
- spending less time on Facebook and social media
- spending more time relaxing and reading (finding ways to relax that I enjoy!)

3) Building New
- Composing pieces for my classroom (using bars/drums/UPP)
- how to play harpsichord
- how to play basic drum set

4) Spiritual
- Purposeful scripture memorization
- Engage with others at church in small groups/worship team
- Women's bible studies

5) Health
- More rest
- More time doing what I love
- Exercising
- Eating more vegetables

6) Teaching
- Graduate Studies at SMU
- Attend NAOSA Workshops
- Lead a workshop this year in the area
- Work towards Orff Certification
- Kodaly Level II at SMU this summer

7) Vacation
- take time for family at least one time this year
- all four of us together

8) Reading
- Top 16 books for 2016 (5 classics/5 educational/6 fun)
- something I love to do

9) Marriage
- Date nights
- Plan for them and do them once a month at least


Julia:  I really like the mailman.  You know why?

Me:  Why?

Julia:  Because he works with Santa!

Smarty Pants

The girls have been at one another all week.  Arguments include subjects such as you have more time with mom than I do, I was standing on this side first, you're a meany, make me, I like the green bowl better, that's my favorite chair to sit in during dinner and other various exciting and highly meaningful conversations.  Though the one about time with me is important.  Just no need to argue about the comparison of time with them when it's spent so differently with each girl.

I tried a variety of wonderful parenting tricks.  None of them seemed to work.  Last night I sat them down and we talked about expectations for today.  Riley is still recovering from her nasty sickness that just keeps hanging on.  She's not getting enough rest as she's up coughing constantly and isn't hungry.  No sleep + no food = grouchy girl.

So we had a conversation about her choices.

Me:  So I can see Julia is irritating you.

Riley:  (grumpily) Yea

Me:  Let's think through some options you have when you feel really mad at her.  Options other than giving mean looks, hitting her, things like that.

Riley:  (rolling eyes) Okay

Me:  Can you think of something that would be a good choice to do when you feel this way?

Riley:  Not really

Me:  Do you have any ideas of what you could do?

Riley:  No, but I'm sure you're going to tell me what I can do.

Instant laughter ensued as I did have a few ideas to share.  We laughed together about how she knew I had things to say.  She then talked about how she's so smart to think of that.  We laughed a lot.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Update on Jim

Rana texted me today:

Hey!  Just wanted to update you with the latest we've heard on Jim.  Our contact says he's heard from several people in response to the posters we put out.  Supposedly, Jim is  living in a tent city near a church.  Someone who saw a poster must have talked to him and told our pastor friend that Jim was a little reluctant to talk.  He may be wary that there were posters out looking for him... understandable. Anyway, we have another good friend who is going into the tent cities Christmas Eve, and we are talking him to look out for Jim.  Ryan also has plans to go out himself when he can get it worked out with someone who knows the area to go with him.  Fingers crossed!

So thankful for such amazing friends.  Now to continue praying...

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Christmas Shopping

My dad and I did our traditional Christmas Shopping event today.  Spent money on books and a few simple gifts for the girls.  This is one of the best events of every year for me.  I sure do love my Dad and the time together.  Even when it involves long lines, waiting for people to pass a store so we can actually walk into the store and parking far far far away.  The walks to and from are great anyway.  Neither of us actually minds.

12 hours in

As of this semester, I have completed 12 hours of my graduate degree at SMU.  Just received word of our grades tonight and looked online to find that I have maintained my 4.0 GPA.  All A's for the semester.  The amount of work and dedication to studying this semester was incredible.  I had honestly thought at the beginning of the semester that I'd be happy with a B.  And wasn't sure if I could even do that as the course was so challenging.  Dr. Harder was an amazing teacher - pure genius.  He was tough and there was so much work to be done to make sure we covered all the concepts.  I'm so thrilled to have just focused on the tasks at hand and tried to just do my best on every assignment as we went along without looking too far ahead.  It paid off greatly.  All A's... here's to continuing that trend next semester :)


I went to take the dog out yesterday and there was a woman outside who was very lost.  She had her phone out, was stumbling around and looking very very confused.  She called out to me "Where is the school?"  I asked if she was looking for a school (I didn't quite hear her well as her speech was slurred).  She said "No.  Where is the school?"  At this point, I was confused.  I told her we had just moved in (4 months ago but she didn't need to know that) and I didn't know.  She looked completely irritated.

She stood in the middle of the street with her cell phone in her hand and then went to the middle of the intersection of our street and the next street and looked around.  She was talking to herself and then said "Well, do you know anyone who would know where the school is?  This doesn't make sense."

I saw that our neighbors' car was in the driveway so I said we could ask them.

She responded with "You go up and ask them.  Because I'm a babysitter and I'm tired."

I kept my eye on her and she was stumbling more.  Thankful our neighbors were home and they had been watching the interaction through the window (love them!).  He was able to share where the middle school was on the other side of the main street.  She made her way down and I shared what she had told me to do.

Lisa responded with "Did you tell her 'I'm a mom and I'm tired?'"  We laughed.  While a true statement, I was more concerned with whether she was going to pull out a gun than if I should trump her.  I now have a new line to share whenever I don't feel like doing something.


Our dog is neutered!  Our dog is neutered!  All is great with the world!  :)

Except he has the cone of shame and can't quite do what he normally does.  They had to go quite invasive to find his hidden ball (only one dropped) so as a result of a lot of stitches, he has to wear the cone for two weeks so he doesn't mess with them.  He is not a fan of the cone.  Who would be?!  He runs into our legs and plastic hurts.  He goes to sniff the ground only to be jolted when the cone hits the ground first.

He's calmer and we're very happy.  Here's to a peaceful new year with a calm dog!

Sick, Sick, Sick, Neutered, Healthy

Here's our Christmas song at the moment called the Five Days of Christmas:

Five tired Grants
Four hour long naps
Three sick with bronchitis and crud
Two girls sleeping with fevers
And a dog with a cone of shame

Merry Christmas from our healthy home!

No Lunch for You

Julia came home from school and began to cry saying "You didn't pack me a lunch!"  I told her that I had and then remembered.  I had taken her empty lunch box and never opened it from the day before.  I had simply just reattached it to her bag.

When she got to lunch at school and opened it, there was nothing inside.  She cried and was able to go through the lunch line where they served mac n cheese that she hated.

Life lesson #1243534:  When in doubt, open your kids lunchbox in the morning to be sure you actually packed them one.

Life lesson #232432:  Teach my five year old to pack her own lunch.  Then you know for sure that there's something to eat.  ;)

Hope Part III

Because all good stories all told in a trilogy (not true, but just sounds good), I thought I'd start a part III.  Actually the blog posts were getting long so it's easier to read in segments.  Trying to add a little humor... bear with me.

In November this year I went to my alma mater for a Ladies of Lee Reunion.  I met up with my college roommates and spent a lot of time with one of them.  Rana and her husband Ryan are pastors of a church in GA.  We had quite a bit of time to talk on rides to and from the ATL airport.  Rana and I hadn't seen each other in 15 years.  We'd been on Facebook connecting, but not to the depth that is done face to face.  Fifteen years God waited to allow us to reconnect and brought about a piece of restoration for our family as a result of this reunion.

They asked about our family.  I shared how everyone was doing and the topic came to Jim.  I shared that he had been in jail in Savannah.  They live in a suburb of Savannah.  I shared that we were having an incredibly hard time locating Jim.  I mentioned that we thought he might be homeless or dead.  They work with homeless shelters in the area and have a friend who oversees homeless ministry at several areas.  They shared that if we gave them a picture of Jim and a bit of his information they would pass it on.

When I returned from the trip, I sent them a picture and information on Jim.  Truly not sure what they would find if anything and honestly not expecting anything.

I received a text message from Rana on Sunday afternoon telling me:

Hey! We got some info on Jim.  Apparently he is still in the area.  People say they have seen him.  We will follow up and let you guys know!

I contacted her very quickly and we talked.  I imagine it was difficult for her to share and she was incredibly sweet.  The info we found out was hard to hear and yet so reassuring too.  He was alive.  Just that alone was healing to know.  No more worry as to the 'ifs' and questions of if he was alive or not.  We at least had that answer.

She shared that their friend had posted flyers around the area with Jim's picture and information as well as a phone number to call if anyone had seen him.  People had called to report that he frequents the St. Paul church and the food lines at Forsyth Park.  They shared that they hadn't seen him living in the tents.  This was the most difficult part to take in.  He is homeless.

Rana shared that they were in contact with their friend and he posted new flyers around town that we were trying to get in contact with him.  They asked for a message from us so that they could pass the word to Jim when he was found.  Without knowing his mental/physical/addiction state, it was hard to know what message to pass on.  Our family agreed on a simple statement that would allow Jim choices.

So now we wait.  We wait to find out if he is found and gets our message.  We wait to find out if he continues to struggle.  We wait to find out if he is well.

I share our story because there must be other families who have homeless family members that they love and care about.  It is near impossible to find out where they live, any information on their well being.  I have never looked at homeless men and women through the eyes of their families.  After all, all of them must have a relative somewhere.  I'm not saying that rescuing them is the answer.  I'm simply saying that having a homeless relative, especially a brother, makes me wonder how many families have lost touch with their family and have no way to reach them.  And they're wondering where they are with no hope of finding them.

And once you know, what do you do?  Their addiction is their addiction.  They are adults who can't be rescued, but can be cared for.  They can't be simply lifted out of their situations and brought back into a home without restoration, therapy, detox and counseling.  I share our story because I don't have the answers.  I do know that this has been brought about in our lives for a reason yet unknown.  I have hope.  Hope that Jim can be restored to us.  Hope that whether we ever see him again or not, that he can be given a message of love and care from our family.  Hope that others in the homeless church ministries have been serving my brother even when we didn't know where he was.  Hope that God hasn't forgotten him.  And hope that Jim will run to God and find peace.  I have hope that change is still possible while Jim is alive.  For if I don't have hope, then what is there to wish for?  If things can't change, then why even try?  If God is not big enough for this, then my God is not big.  Things may not result the way we hope them to, but hope is worth having.  Job 6:8 "Oh that I might have my request, that God would grant what I hope for..."

Hope Part II

My parents moved to Texas while I was pregnant with Riley in 2006/2007.  Jim soon moved to Texas as well after finishing college and then living with them in MI.  He worked at Buca Di Beppo as a server and later as a manager.  He dated a girl for a while.  Spent most of the daytime hours either sleeping or working depending on the time.  We didn't see him much and when we did he looked tired and unhappy, but kept a smile on his face and never let us into his world or thoughts.

My parents had difficult talks with him and he opened up about his addiction to pain killers.  He told them that it had started when he was 17 and had torn his ACL.  He began taking just a few pills a day and at one point was taking 10 a day.  This was on top of his alcohol addiction.  There may have been other things as well not shared, but this was what we now knew.  His girlfriend broke up with him, he became more reclusive and a change seemed good.

There was a job opportunity for him to move to GA where he could be manager of a new Buca there. He applied to other restaurants here in Dallas, but nothing opened up.  He took a leap of faith and moved to GA.  While there, life choices were made that opened our eyes to what he was battling.  The restaurant began to get suspicious that someone was stealing from the registers and they hired a private investigator to come in.  Jim was caught feeding his habit through stealing money and was put in jail for a year and a half.  Our communication during this time was very minimal and we found out where he was by searching for him.  Jon was able to get information that he was in jail, which jail and the reason for it.  We were able to send him care packages and mail.  Jim wrote back a few times.  (Just spent time looking for his letters.  Sad to say I think they were in the cash box that the burglars stole... cue tears.)

Jim was detoxed and after jail was going to a halfway house where they'd help to get him on his feet.  He wrote to say that many of the guys had plans to just go right back to their old lives, but that he wasn't planning on that.  He wrote about his faith and told memories he had.  We had hope while also having knowledge that life was challenging in jail to say the least and odds of coming out on top were not favorable.  He shared with us the date that he was due to get out of jail, but never contacted us to let us know he was out.  Jon was able to get the information that he'd been released from jail in June of 2013.

The past few years we have tried to figure out where he was.  His former boss hadn't heard from him. We called his friends and they hadn't heard from him.  We searched jail records online and no sign that he was incarcerated again.  We hadn't been contacted by police and hoped that he was still alive.  It looked near impossible to be able to locate him.  His credit report showed no new activity in terms of housing, jobs, credit or any signs of him being alive.

To be continued (Read blog post titled Hope Part III)

Friday, December 18, 2015


The Bible states that "Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."  (Hebrews 11:1)  God also tells us that we will go through hard times.  That life isn't always easy.  There is also a quote that has been shared on social media that reminds us that not everything we go through can be seen by others.  Our lives may look perfect, easy, simple when the whole story has not been shared.  Some stories are meant to be known by few.  This time in our family's life is one of trusting through a hard time, having faith that God will do something amazing and we having hope when it seems that there hasn't been much to be had in the past few years.

I am incredibly blessed to have the family that God gave me.  I grew up with a Dad, Mom, and two brothers in a home that was made from a solid foundation, hard working, healthy, spiritual, and as close to "Leave it to Beaver" as you possibly could be with a nuclear family without being perfect.  No family is perfect, but we were well-loved, safe, provided for and never went without.  Definitely set up for being successful, healthy adults.

I'm the oldest of the three J's: Jon is a little less than two years younger than me while Jim is three years younger than Jon.  We got along when we were little.  Come pre-teen years, I wasn't the kindest.  I was arrogant, changing, and felt inadequate so I took it out on Jon.  A lot.  Thankfully we've worked through that stage and are now good friends and have a great relationship.  He's an amazing man, husband and father to his family.  I have much respect for him.

During the growing up years, Jim was always the quiet one.  He sang constantly.  Constantly!  We'd laugh at dinner because he'd go to the bathroom while we were eating and sing at the top of his lungs and then walk back in as though we hadn't heard anything.  He was also the peace keeper.  Jon and I would be arguing about something and Jim would tell our parents.  Or he'd cry and tell us to stop.  He did lock us in our parents shed with neighbor friends, but that was likely his one and only choice that was not the best.  He was always one that could be counted on to give hugs.  He just wanted everything to go well and for there to be peace.  He was also the guy that everyone loved to be around.  He didn't make waves and was there to just be.  He always had a ball in his hand as well - soccer, football, baseball, nerf - didn't matter.  We'd hear lots of clunks and sounds as he repeatedly bounced his ball against the wall in his room.  He was athletic - particularly soccer and baseball.  He was a star on his teams and found his place in the athletic arenas growing up.

Unfortunately in his senior year of high school, he had an injury to his ACL on his knee and was never the same.  Physically he recovered, but it was easily reinjured and sore and he couldn't play the way he had.  Emotionally he put on a good front and kept us all from truly seeing the pain internally. This injury also put an end to the possibility of playing on a college team which was something he wanted to do.  He was still the one to keep peace, to laugh and to hug.  He still sang some.  He played some soccer on the side but not actively or consistently.  He went on to Campbell College for a year where he never really settled.  Then went to my university where he graduated, but wasn't himself.  He had gained weight, had a burden on him that while he didn't talk about it - was noticeable but we couldn't put our finger on it, and drank quite heavily.  He kept to himself and was awake more at night than during the day.

I went on to college, got my degree, fumbled a bit in what I really wanted to do with life for a few years until marrying Jeremy and settling into a job in Texas where I was able to make a living impacting the lives of children through music.  Jon had a few difficult years after high school, then went to a tech school, found a fun hobby in sky diving which allowed him to meet his wife Allison and they both now have a beautiful family and make a difference in the lives of students and coworkers and companies.

To be continued (Read blog post called Hope Part II)

Rare Form

Julia has kept us on our toes.  This mornings Julia-ism was that she didn't want to change out of her pjs to go to school.  It was a half day inservice so we didn't have to go until 8am.  8am!!!  It was like Christmas to sleep past 5:30am.  Though I love my morning groups to no end.  It was a refreshing change to sleep a bit more.  Julia wasn't so convinced.  She didn't even have to wear a uniform today and had no interest in wearing anything but pjs.

So our conversation was thus:

Julia:  Santa is watching you - you know.

Me:  Yes and you too.

Julia:  Yes but he's mostly watching the parents because they boss their kids around.

She did eventually put on clothes after I put a shirt on her and she ripped it off.  Then left her to pout while wearing nothing on top.  After we got home this afternoon, Julia started to be sassy and wanted to explain what a word was that she learned.

Julia:  Do you know what overnoxious means?  It means that you do the same thing over and over again and then you throw up.

Riley:  Don't you mean obnoxious?

Julia:  Yeah.

Riley:  That's not what it means.  It means that you're like really annoying.

Julia:  No it doesn't.  You're mean.

And there you have it folks.

Saturday, December 5, 2015


The bathroom door at work was not locked and I walked into the single stall to find another female adult in there.  She said "ah!" and I said "so sorry!" I quickly shut the door and stood outside of it as I didn't want anyone else to accidentally walk in.

She came out and said something light hearted.

My response as we parted ways:  Well, nice to see you!

OMG... I was dying.  Why did those words have to be the first thing I said?!  Could have said "have a nice day" or "have a good one."

We watch The Office too much

Jeremy and I use the the line "That's what he said/that's what she said" now and again.  Okay - fairly often.  It's become a joke as I tend to use it at the wrong times and it doesn't make sense which makes us laugh more.

Julia was working on her snowman picture/drawing and had written "ho ho ho ho ho" all over it.  She then asked me "How do you write 'that's what he said?'



Julia had 'one of those days' yesterday.  After school, she came home in a true funk and stayed that way until she went to sleep.  Thank God she slept well and is better today.  Sleep helps.  Just a few conversations to sum up what I mean:

1) The "I'm the Parent" talk

Julia:  I'm not listening to Dad.  He's not the parent.  I only listen to you.

Me:  Well, whatever Dad has asked you to do is the same thing I'll ask you to do because we work together.

Julia:  Well I'm not going to listen to him.  I only listen to you.  I'm a parent too.

Me:  You are not a parent and you know that.  Dad and I are the parents.

Julia:  I want to be a parent because I want to do what I want to do.

2) The "I don't understand" talk

Julia was walking around the kitchen after we went out to eat dinner at their favorite restaurant Frankie's.  She began singing a song "Riley is nice and Mom and Dad are blah, blah... Riley is nice and Mom and Dad are blah, blah."  I told her that she needed to go to her room as she was being mean.  She replied that we were "blah blah" and I just repeated that she needed to go to her room.  She walked away mumbling.

I then went to her room a few minutes later and talked with her.

*Side Note: I've learned that if you are harsh in words, she becomes incredibly defensive, shuts down and you get nowhere but with tons of crying.  If you're quiet, calm, and talk with her, she understands and feels more remorse for her actions.  This results in change - positive change.  There's still manipulation and bargaining, but the final result is different.

Me:  Julia, I want you to look at me.  (she does)  I love you very much.

Julia:  I think you hate me.

Me: I love you very much.  You are a sweet girl and sweet girls do not treat people this way.  Do you remember how you feel when your friend at school teased you and called you "Goo Goo Gaga Pants?"

Julia:  Yes

Me:  That's how I feel when you call me "Blah Blah."  (Julia cries)  It's not polite and it hurts people's feelings.

Julia:  But I just don't understand what Dad asks me to do sometimes.

Me:  Do you understand when he tells you to stop?

Julia: Yes.

Me:  Do you understand when he tells you to be nice?

Julia:  Yes.

Me:  Do you understand when he tells you to listen?

Julia:  Yes.

Me:  What don't you understand.

Julia:  Let me think for a minute.... (a minute or more goes by)  I don't know.

Me:  When Dad or I ask you to stop, listen or be nice, you need to make the choice to change your behavior and stop doing what you're doing that isn't right.

To be honest, I don't know if she ever apologized.  Apologies don't come easily for her and she fights them with all that's within her.  However she broke down crying and was much nicer the rest of the night.

3)  The "911" talk

Julia and Riley were on the couch after the #2 talk.  Julia was mad that I wouldn't give her my phone to play the McKenna game.  She sat down pouting next to Riley.  They whispered a bit and then Riley came over to me as I was reading at the kitchen table and said, very seriously, "Mom, you'll want to watch your phone on the table very closely because Julia is going to come over here and take it and call 911.  She's going to tell the police to arrest you and Dad because you're being mean."  It was all I could not to laugh and instead I said "I think I can handle this."

Julia comes over tiptoeing to the table and I gently move the phone into my hands.  She giggles and asks for the phone.  I tell her 'no' and she goes back away and pouts.  She tells me that she wants us to be arrested for being bad parents and that way she can play on my phone.  I just said "ok."

This morning Julia tells me "I don't want you to be arrested today."  It's already a much better day.

These conversations were all held within a two hour time frame.  I'm sure there was more, but can't remember them.  I have no doubt she'll treasure these when she's older.