Friday, January 23, 2009

Encouragement From Friends

" . . . that I may be encouraged together with you while among you, each of us by the other's faith, both yours and mine." (Romans 1:12)

I read this verse just a few minutes ago, and I immediately thought of my closest girlfriends. This is what we do for each other; we encourage one another in our faith. These women play such an important role in my spiritual journey. Some of them I have known for nearly two decades (I can't believe I'm old enough to even be able to say that.); others I have known only a year or two.

I truly value my time with each of these women. And I am grateful to know that I can call on any one of them for advice, a listening ear, a fresh perspective, a voice of sanity, or just a much-needed laugh. I do not take these relationships for granted, and I just wanted to say thank you for encouraging me in my faith.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

25 Random Things About Me

This was an activity I did on Facebook and thought I'd post it on here. Just cuz.

1. Watching a marching band makes me tear up (in a good way).

2. I am an introvert and absolutely love spending time alone.

3. I would love to travel the world with my family.

4. Peppermint and alcohol both make me sneeze.

5. I pop my toes a lot.

6. Writing a personal essay energizes me almost more than anything else.

7. Being a mother continually teaches me so much about my relationship with God.

8. Being a mother is the hardest thing I've ever done, but it's also the most wonderful.

9. I bought my wedding dress before Kevin even asked me to marry him.

10. I love dance music, but I'm way too self-conscious to dance. I also lack grace, balance, and dance moves.

11. I once served 15 straight points in a volleyball game in high school. And I hit 3 homeruns in 2 back-to-back softball games in high school. (Yes, I played sports back in the day.)

12. I was editor of my high school newspaper.

13. I am in the Mississippi College Hall of Fame.

14. I would rather write letters and e-mail than talk on the phone or face-to-face.

15. I spend at least an hour in the bathtub and have actually spent three hours in the tub on more than one occasion. It's my solitude!

16. When I was 10 years old, I hit a kid with my bike, because I was too shy to tell him to move out of the way. Instead, I got to go knock on the door and tell his mother that I ran over her son and that he was crying on the sidewalk.

17. Knitting and writing are my absolute favorite hobbies. And drinking coffee.

18. I secretly like rap music (minus the obscene lyrics).

19. I love to stay up late and absolutely hate getting up in the mornings. 10:00 a.m. would be my ideal rising time.

20. I used to be a high school English teacher. Most likely won't ever be again.

21. I am terrified of heights, drowning, sea creatures, mice, suffocating, being buried alive, and small enclosed spaces.

22. I have control issues.

23. I hate to clean. This seems to be getting worse.

24. My father and grandfather have always called me "Blue" or "Bluedoll" because of my eyes.

25. When I was in third grade, I carried my boyfriend's school pictures in the pockets of my purple Kangaroo tennis shoes.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Blue Cupcakes and First Slumber Party

Last week we celebrated Callie's birthday a few different ways. One of these was the usual sending of the birthday cupcakes to her class at school. Callie had requested chocolate cupcakes with blue icing and green sugar sprinkles and a cherry on top. So I obliged, using an entire tube of blue gel food coloring in the vanilla icing to achieve the desired effect.

As I pulled up to the school to pick up Callie and Caleb that afternoon, Callie's teacher was standing with them to return my cupcake carrier to me . . . and to tell me what happened. She had decided to let Callie pass out her cupcakes to her classmates, which Callie was happy to do. However, as she carried one of the trays of a dozen blue cupcakes, Callie tripped on someone's bookbag and fell to the floor, landing right in the cupcakes. Now, I saw the results on her white uniform shirt (now looking somewhat tie-dyed), but I wish I could have seen her face, too, which was apparently equally blue and creamy!

Oh my goodness. I wish I could have seen it. Since I didn't, though, I was full of questions for Callie. I made sure to ask her if she was hurt or if she was embarrassed or cried before my hard-to-contain laughter was released. She did say that she had to blink back a few tears, which was sad. But her face told me that somehow she knew it was really funny. So we got to laughing about it, and she decided that she wanted to keep the shirt on for the rest of the day, because it was such a great story. I assured her that this was the type thing that they do on purpose on TV and in the movies to get people to laugh! It was also a good time to talk about how even when it's hard (I know it is for me!!!), it's important to be able to laugh at ourselves. Granted, I wasn't the one who fell into the cupcakes in front of my entire class, but this story is STILL making me laugh!

Then last weekend, Callie hosted her first slumber party, and I have to say it was lots of fun! She invited four little girls to our house for an "Under the Sea" themed party. As we prepared for the girls' arrival, we were all busy trying to get the house cleaned up, when I heard this announcement from Callie: "Next year I want a surprise party!" I can't say I blame her; I hate cleaning, too.

Callie had created the invitations herself the previous week. They were incredibly detailed, including instructions to bring whatever sleeping supplies (such as breathing machines--a.k.a. humidifiers for stuffy noses) they might need and to warn us of any allergies they had. The girl is cautious! When she asked me if she should write on the invitations that meals would be included, I told her that that was most likely understood.

Around 5:30 p.m., the girls began arriving at our house. We started the evening with a dinner designed by Callie--tacos, chips and Ro-tel dip, and Caesar salad. Everyone seemed to enjoy it. Then the squealing girls set off to playing and never took a break, except for Callie to open her gifts. They played everything from Hide and Seek to restaurant to pajama fashion show (They made me judge.) to talent show to dance freeze tag to Cadoo to who knows what else. At one point while they were in the living room, I heard Callie announce, "We're sleeping on the floor in here. And I must warn you--sometimes we have roaches!" Wonderful. And then Katie broke out into "La Cocha-ROACH-a." Even better.

The girls each received a new pillow case and spent time carefully coloring, decorating, and signing them. I was honored that one of the girls asked me to sign hers. Later in the evening we each built our own ice cream sundaes. The most desired ingredients were mint chocolate chip ice cream and cordial cherries. Yummy!

Since this was Callie's party, Kevin decided to take Caleb and Katie out of the house for a few hours, so they went to Barnes & Noble. While Katie was not very understanding of this at first, she ended up having a great time looking at books and drinking hot chocolate with her Daddy and brother. Caleb apparently DOWNED his hot chocolate, but Kevin said that Katie sipped hers slowly. "This is how Mommy drinks her coffee," was Katie's explanation.

For the most part, I stayed out of the girls' way, although I remained within earshot. I perched at the kitchen table with the laptop and gave frequent status updates on Facebook, which some people found humorous. At 11:00 the girls were still very, very wired and not looking like sleep was coming anytime soon. So I announced that at 11:30, the sleeping bags would be laid out on the living room floor, and The Little Mermaid would begin playing on the TV. While two of the girls fell asleep pretty quickly after 11:30, my daughter and two other girls were still awake at 1:00 when the movie ended! I don't think they lasted much longer, though.

The next morning, Kevin got up and made chocolate chip pancakes for our guests, and they seemed to enjoy them. One girl asked if she could stay with us for a week! (We said no.) After breakfast they all got dressed and went outside to jump on the trampoline. I don't see how they did this right after eating chocolate chip pancakes, but they did. Then one-by-one the tired girls went back to their own homes, and the Partridges took the afternoon to rest.

A very successful first slumber party, in my opinion.

Monday, January 12, 2009

So Short . . .

I recently came across MaryBeth Chapman's blog, on which she had posted her family's Christmas letter. Their 5-year-old adopted daughter, Maria, was killed last May, and these were just a few of MaryBeth's thoughts that really struck me, and I pray that they stay with me for a very long time . . .

"As I anticipate Christmas 2008, I have many thoughts flying through my heart and head. The last several days, my mind has not been able to stop thinking about Mary, the mother of Jesus. Pregnant and scared, knowing that the baby she was carrying eventually would pay the ultimate price of His life. How would I have lived differently if I knew that my time with Maria was going to be this short? Regretfully, I would have lived much differently. I would have purposely hugged and kissed more. I would have tried to memorize and lock away in my heart certain smells and smiles. I would have colored more and worked less. I would have laughed more and fussed less. Bedtime wouldn’t have become a chore to check off the list of things to get done. Instead it would have been more of an opportunity to listen about the day and offer whatever words were needed. The swimming pool wouldn’t have been too cold to swim in. The flowers in the garden would have all been picked, and definitely more ice cream would have been consumed!"

Such a powerful reminder of how short our time together on earth can be and how each moment should be both seized and enjoyed. That's hard for me to remember sometimes.


"In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus told His followers, 'You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden' (Matthew 5:14). As His disciples, we are what Dietrich Bonhoeffer refers to as 'the visible community.' Bonhoeffer asserts that Jesus did not say 'BE the light.' Instead, He said, 'You ARE the light.' It isn't for us to decide. We may choose, of course, to cover the light or hide it under a bushel. But what a privilege it is to let our light shine for the world to see--the blessed light of Jesus Christ in us! Not to reveal any radiance of our own, but to glorify our Father in heaven. To be seen kneeling at the foot of our Savior's cross, on the mountain called Calvary, under the sweet light of His resurrection. A joyous honor, indeed!"

--Taken from the Forward by Steve Hindalong in City on a Hill: Reflections on Our Spiritual Journeys

Little Composers

In the last several months, Callie and Caleb have written a few songs. Really, they write songs all the time, but these are the ones they actually wrote down on paper. They have such sincerity and truth in them. Of course, actually hearing them sing their songs is much, much better, but this will do for now.

"At Sea"
By Callie Partridge (7)--Written while sitting on a balcony overlooking the Gulf in Destin, FL

When I'm alone near the sea,
I'm just thinkin' beautifully--
Thinkin' 'bout how God created everything
That I see today.

Everything's beautiful;
It's all God's creation,

Holy! Holy is the highest.
Holy! Holy is the Lord.

All I can image
Is how God created

Everything's beautiful;
It's all God's creation,

Holy! Holy is the highest.
Holy! Holy is the Lord.

So when I'm alone by the sea,
I'm just thinkin' beautifully!

'Cause everything's beautiful;
It's all God's creation,

"I Confess, Lord"
By Callie Partridge (7)

Jesus, I put my heart to Yours,
Until I know what I've done;
There will be only one that I know,

Dance in the light,
Now dance in the night,
'Cause I want to see You, yeah.
I won't know till the moment
When I see Your face at last, yeah!

I will have to confess my crime.
I confess, Lord!
I confess, Lord!
I confess, I confess, I confess, Lord!

Give praise to the Lord--
The only, almighty Lord!
Yeah, 'cause I'm dying,
And I want to see you.

I'm wishing that You'll go, oh!
So I can think about my life, yeah!
So I can think.
I need to think--
What have I done?
There are many things I've done,
When how many did God do?
Not even one!

I confess, Lord!
I confess, Lord!
I confess, I confess, I confess, Lord!
I confess, Lord,
I confess . . . Lord.
I confess.

"Goodness Can Be Found"
By Caleb Partridge (5)

Holy Lord--
God, O God,
I am dying, too.
And I do not believe in strangers.
I just love you;
God, O God,
I would not worship other people.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

My Callie

Yesterday my first-born turned eight. She was so excited about it, just as she has been about every birthday. She loves birthdays, because it means she's growing up (all too fast, I might add). I have so much I want to write about my Callie, but I'm having trouble doing it. So many thoughts and stories and emotions are swirling around in my head, and I don't know where to begin. She was my first baby. You mothers know what that means. All the firsts come with this child, and you both have to figure it out together. But you're both the stronger for it.

Strong is an excellent description of Callie. Even in the womb, she proved her will and determination. When I was just seven or eight weeks pregnant with her, I had a threatened miscarriage. Kevin and I had not even told our families that I was pregnant, and I had not yet gone to the doctor. But I had some bleeding, which my inexperience told me meant I had lost my baby. (I may have to take a moment here and regroup . . . )

Wow. It's all still so vivid. For a few hours that day, I was under the impression that my baby was gone, and that horrible feeling can still be so easily recalled. I just cannot imagine our lives without
Callie . . .

This is what happened. I was a high school English teacher in Texas at the time. It was near the end of the school day when I realized I had some bleeding. Not telling anyone what was going on, I just went to the office and, with tears streaming down my face, told them that I had to leave. Before I left, I called the seminary where Kevin was in class and had them give him the message to meet me at our house. (This was before we had cell phones.) I cried the whole way home, and when I got there, I managed to mumble, "I lost our baby." We just stood on the porch and embraced each other and wept.

Again, my inexperience told me that we needed to go to the emergency room, so we did. There I had the lovely experience of having a student nurse attempt to draw my blood and also put in a catheter. Neither of these things is pleasant anyway, but then add to the equation a nurse who was still in the learning process plus a very emotionally distraught patient. Not good.

After a while, they wheeled me up to a large, dark, cold room to have a sonogram, and they wouldn't allow Kevin to come in. Since I was not very far along in my pregnancy, they basically had to fill my belly up with water . . . and then proceed to press on it with the sonogram thingy. Yeah--not a good feeling on my bladder! After a few quiet moments, I heard a heartbeat and dismissed it as my own. But then the technician said, "There's your baby!" I really thought I misunderstood her, but she assured me that that was my baby's heartbeat I was hearing through the monitor. I lay there in the darkness and cried.

After being "deflated" of all that water they pumped into my belly, I was wheeled back out into the hall where Kevin was waiting, and the technician said, "Good luck with your baby!" as she was walking away. Very confused, Kevin looked at me and asked, "What did she just say?!"

The way the doctor described it to us was that Callie had begun to detach from the wall of my uterus but that she was still holding on and just needed time to reattach. He drew a diagram which made her look like a little cliff hanger! So, yes, she's been a determined child from the very beginning.

Each of my labor and delivery experiences was different. But my first one, I'd have to say, was the most exciting--meaning it was most like what you see happening on television or in the movies! It was about a week before Callie was due, but we were so ready for her to come. My sister Julie and her two little ones were passing through Ft. Worth, and they were supposed to be leaving the next day. So we were really hoping I would go into labor while she was still there!

I was pretty uncomfortable and had already been trying to get myself to go into labor, which never seems to work. Earlier that evening, my neighbor brought me an authentic, homemade tamale, which we thought might get things going. For dinner Kevin, Julie, my niece and nephew, and I went to eat barbecue. Then Kevin had to go off to work, so Julie, the kids, and I went to browse at Babies R Us. After lingering there a while, we drove over to Sonic to get milkshakes. I ordered a chocolate one, but before they brought it out to me, something happened.

"Julie," I said, "Either my water just broke, or I have lost all control of my bladder."

I very vividly remember her eyes getting big and her mouth curling up into a smile. "Okaaaaay . . . What do we need to do?" Thankfully, she had a cell phone--as did Kevin by this time--so she called him and told him to meet us at the hospital.

I immediately went into panic mode, I think! Thankfully, we were very close to the hospital, and I think I ran all the way to the nurse's station. Julie and her kids were trailing behind me. When the nurse asked how she could help me, I don't remember exactly what I said--something to the effect of "My water just broke, and I'm about to have a baby! I need a room!!!" Very, very calmly, she smiled and said, "Okaaaaay. Let's see here . . . "


Okay, so that didn't actually come out of my mouth, but it was sure going on in my head! I thought that everyone's worlds should come to a halt as mine had! It didn't really register with me that this is what these people did all day every day.

It wasn't until I was already settled into a room that Kevin was able to get there. And he was wearing a chef's shirt and hat. Okay, so maybe he didn't still have the hat on, but that's what he had been wearing, because he worked for a business called Entrees on Trays, which was a delivery service for several area restaurants. In fact, when he got Julie's call, he was already en route to deliver some food, so he had to finish the job. He said the lady was talking his ear off when he finally told her that his wife was in labor and that he really had to go! Thankfully, he had already swung by our house to get our bags and trade cars before delivering the food.

It was a while before I was progressed enough to get the blessed (in my opinon) epidural. Once I had it, I was actually able to sleep some. This was good, because Miss Callie was now taking her time. Actually, we think she was holding out for her audience, because Kevin's parents, my mother, my sister and her boyfriend (now husband) were all driving through the night from Mississippi to get there for the birth! Callie has always loved an audience. (Note: The audience was not in the delivery room.)

Kevin was so great throughout the whole labor. Neither of us knew what to expect, but he was so kind and encouraging. My only complaint was that each time he breathed or talked in my face, all I could smell was MY chocolate milkshake. That's right. Since I had gone into labor before my Sonic milkshake was brought to me, I didn't think I was allowed to drink it. So I saved it for my husband, and it has made for a very vivid . . . and bitter . . . memory.

Fourteen and a half hours after I ordered that infamous milkshake, Callie Elizabeth Partridge entered the world. And nothing has ever been the same for us! We were immediately smitten by her. The nurses called her a dumplin', because she was a chubby baby. The chubbiness very much stayed with her through babyhood and toddlerhood, but then it all went away.

Now that Kevin and I were actual parents, we saw a lot of things in a different way. For example, after we got over the shock that the hospital staff was actually going to let us take this tiny being home with us, we drove a maximum of 30 m.p.h. on the interstate on the way to our house, for we knew how precious this cargo was and that we were now solely responsible for it! Over these eight years, we've managed to loosen up a little and not worry quite as much. (I'm pretty sure that Callie's first babysitter--Arica!--was the only one with whom I left an entire two pages of instructions. Good grief.)

Life with Callie Elizabeth (which is also my middle name--one that I inherited from my great-grandmother) is like nothing I've ever experienced. She is my driven and determined child, as many first-borns are. She is independent and strong and so very talented. She loves to write and draw and sing and create. She would be in heaven if you just put her in a room with piles of blank paper and a pen. Yes, she is her mother's child.

She has already accomplished some pretty amazing things in her young life. In kindergarten--unbeknownst to us--she independently read and tested on over 200 books, which made her the top Accelerated Reader in her entire school, which goes up through fifth grade! It was so crazy. They awarded her with a trophy and a brand new bike! We were so proud of her as she beamed on that stage. The greatest thing was that she had done it completely on her own; no one pushed her. She just absolutely loves to read. She's fast, and she comprehends everything she takes in. I truly believe she has already read more novels than I ever have, and many of them she has read twice!

So that was in kindergarten. When she got to first grade, she wrote a poem for a class project, and her teacher asked if she could enter it in a national contest. Sure! So she did, and Callie was one of the finalists, which means that her poem is now published in an anthology.

Confession. I'm a little jealous that my daughter, whose age isn't even in double digits yet, has been published in a book before me! End of confession.

My Callie is an amazing young lady. I really can't say enough about her. She has a confidence about her that I so admire. She is brave, and she pushes herself to try new things. She is a list-maker, an author, an artist, a director, a producer, an inventor, a teacher, and a tutor, but she is also a princess, a ballerina, a giggle-box, a trampoline-jumper, a bike-rider, a PB&J lover, and a connoisseur of cheddar cheese (It must be extra sharp. And she has referred to it as "cheese in the drawer" since she was one and a half, because we always kept it in the drawer in the refrigerator.). She is kind and compassionate, loving and generous, but she is also a force to be reckoned with.

I am loving watching every moment of Callie's growing up and am excited to see what God has in store for my little lady.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Family Gathering

We just finished hosting my family for a week. This has become our Christmas tradition, and it's usually the only time of the entire year that all of my siblings and parents are all together. This is how it went:

Last Saturday--My brother Joshua (He goes to Mississippi State and plays golf for them.) came to stay at our house. We watched the entire first season of "The Office." So hilarious and yet so painful to watch.

Last Sunday--My sister Laurie and her husband Baine (They live in Seattle, WA.) came to stay at our house. My mom came over for a little while, too. I went to the grocery store to buy supplies for the week. I spent almost $500 (People repaid me later.) but managed to fit it all in one basket.

Monday--My dad and his wife Laura (They live in Searcy, AR.) came to stay at our house. My sister Christy, her husband Jeremy, Tyler (5), and Tucker (2) (They live in Baton Rouge, LA.) came to stay at our house. The "grown-up" guys all had new Nerf dart guns, which they played with constantly in the house. The guys stayed up till 3:00 playing with Jeremy's new Wii.

Tuesday--My sister Julie, her husband Jay, Harris (11), Anna Claire (10), Seth (7), and Joel (5) (They live in Chesapeake, VA.) came to stay at our house. After the kids all went to bed, the grown-ups opened Christmas presents together. The guys all got remote-control helicopters, which were also played with in the house. We gave Jay a t-shirt that said, "I ruined Christmas." on it. It was hilarious, because it was from a story that occurred the previous Christmas. Even if I retold it here, it just wouldn't be as funny. Several of us played Bananagrams for a long time, which is a very fun game. The guys stayed up till 3:00 playing with Jeremy's new Wii.

Wednesday--The kids (nine of them, in case you lost count) got to open their Christmas presents. Laurie and Baine left to go spend the night at Baine's dad's house. Kevin's brother Jerrod, his wife Jessie, Ren (3), and Mae (1) came over for a little while. We grilled hamburgers and hot dogs and made S'Mores over the fire pit in the backyard. Several of us played Bananagrams. The guys all stayed up till 3:00 playing with Jeremy's new Wii.

Thursday--My dad and Laura left to go back to Arkansas. The rest of us packed up and caravanned down to my mother's house, which is about an hour away from mine. Laurie and Baine met us there. Mama (a.k.a. Cammie) had cooked a huge meal for us, and we all enjoyed it (and ate too much). We opened Christmas presents. My mother had made pillows for all the kids and aprons for all the mothers and daughters. Then all the dads and sons loaded back up and drove back to our house. The moms and daughters stayed at my mother's house for a girls' night. We all got in our pajamas and snuggled up to watch Little Women. Even four-year-old Katie stayed awake till midnight to watch the whole thing. I slept on the living room floor with my daughters and niece. The Tooth Fairy came during the night, since Callie had lost a tooth earlier that evening. (Callie left her a note asking if she might be able to keep her tooth--for sentimentality--so the Tooth Fairy left the tooth under my pillow, and the dollar was left under Callie's.) I'm sure the guys all stayed up till 3:00 playing with Jeremy's new Wii.

Friday--To celebrate my mother's birthday a day early, all the girls drove to Collins to shop at an antique mall. We loved browsing through it all. I bought a very pretty vase. Then we went back to my mother's house and ate leftovers from the day before and gave Mama her birthday presents. She enjoyed them all. Julie, Anna Claire, Christy, and Laurie then left to take Laurie to the airport in Jackson. (Baine was meeting her there.) My girls decided they wanted to take a bath in Cammie's big bathtub, so they did. And I took advantage of a few quiet moments and took a nap. Then the girls and I made our way home. My mother came to the house later and watched Kit Kittridge with the grandkids while the guys were watching football on TV. The Tooth Fairy made another appearance that night, since my nephew Seth lost a tooth! The guys all stayed up till 3:00 playing with Jeremy's new Wii.

Saturday--Jay ran in the Mississippi Blues Marathon, which literally comes in front of our house on the 22nd mile. So we all had signs and cheers for him and all the other runners. The kids had a great time handing out Twizzlers and bananas to any runners that wanted them. Our supply wasn't very big, though. We also had the Rocky theme music playing, in hopes of inspiring the runners on their last four miles! My nephew Harris had run the kids' race earlier that morning and did well. After the race, we had 30-something people at our house for lunch and hanging out. Then slowly everyone began to leave. By 8:00 it was only the five of us left in the house. And, no, we didn't stay up till 3:00 playing with Jeremy's new Wii. He took it with him.

Today--I crawled out of bed around 12:30.

There are obviously a lot of moments not mentioned here. Many of them good, some of them difficult, but all of them a part of our family's relationships. Much time was spent in the kitchen preparing for and cleaning up after meals for the 20 of us, which is always a group effort. We made chili, lasagna, taco salad, and lots of desserts. (Chocolate is the common denominator in the Bevell family.)

The sisters bond and catch up on each other's lives in the kitchen or wherever we happen to catch each other in the midst of all the chaos. The guys find errands to run, and no less than three of them usually run them together. The kids all run around both inside and outside the house. The trampoline gets a lot of use, as do all the light sabers. The little girls often go off by themselves and play house or create musical programs or make bracelets. The grandparents tend to find somewhere to sit and observe it all. Every once in a while, a person or two finds a way to get by themselves just to catch their breath.

It's a wonderful time of year, even though it takes a lot out of all of us. We are all exhausted, and our bodies and my house all take a beating. But it's worth it. We have so much fun together, because we're not just family; we're friends, too.

So here's to next year, Bevells! Same time, same place. Rest up.