Archive for ‘A Journal of Family’

October 23, 2010

victory dance

I recently learned that the last boy has successfully predicted the champions of multiple professional sports for several years now, which made me very nervous for the ALCS series between the Yankees and the Rangers. You see, D’s a die-hard Rangers fan. And I’m a die-hard Yankees fan. So I was a little worried. Sure enough, the Rangers took the series Friday night with a final game score of 6 to 1 and a series win of 4 games to 2. The moment the last out was registered, the boy did a victory dance.
I’m hoping he roots for my Yankees next year. (click to enlarge)
Texas Rangers victory dance
August 13, 2010

lakeside celebration

A week ago our only girl celebrated her Sweet Sixteen with a weekend party at the lake. Because she’s amazing like this, Kiwi asked that her family come on Friday night for a beachside celebration, and then she had her two best friends stay overnight in a cabin so they could continue the party on Saturday with another group of friends who would join them. I’ll admit that my first thought was, “Lake? In August? When the temperatures have been over 100 for weeks and I don’t ever go into the water? You must be joking.” Soon after that selfish thought I realized there was hardly anything that could keep me away from the girl’s celebration. She’d been dreaming and talking about sixteen for as long as any of us can remember, so I just couldn’t disappoint her by not showing up. Not this girl. Not when family truly means so much to her. So I stuffed down my dislike of summer and headed out with the rest of our side of the fam to join in the celebration of our only princess — the original Princess of Quite a Lot.
God knew exactly what we all needed on this night, and He brought a short shower during the late afternoon that took the temperatures down almost twenty degrees… or so it felt. I can’t even begin to tell you how grateful I was and how great an impact this one shift had on my demeanor. As soon as we got to the lake, I headed straight down to the water’s edge. A rarity, for sure!
By the time we arrived the waters were calm and pleasantly warm, and the sun was hiding well behind the clouds. There was even a nice breeze coming off the lake. Serenity was the word that immediately came to mind. And since it was a private beach, we had it almost entirely to ourselves.


I couldn’t resist the urge to put my toes into the slick, squishy sand. But only so far as I could still see the bottom. Two steps beyond the edge was murky and dark green, camouflaging all the little creatures who lie in wait. I don’t go there.

water's edge

Of course, D has to be held back from jumping in headlong. He’s a water-lover, but on this night his mom “forgot” (insert sarcastic tone of older brother here) their swim trunks so they were only allowed to play at the edge of the lake.

a bit of rolling tide

Of course, turn your back for one instant and off he goes!

D at play

At one point I looked down the beach and saw every single male skipping rocks into the water. It must be a guy thing.

rock skip

The dry sand of the beach was deep and loose and a perfect temperature for walking barefoot. Plus, there were various ephemera left behind by previous visitors that are perfect to spark the imagination of children.

perfect spot for D

Of course, that only works if the water holds no allure. Which is never the case for the youngest boy. All night I marveled at how deep we sank into the sand at just the very outer edge of the water. Walking in it was exactly how I imagine quicksand must feel!

D and J in the sinking sand

When the birthday girl came back to the beach to join us, both her cousins ran to her. It’s never happened quite that way before, and it’s a great reminder just how quickly they’re all growing up. A bittersweet reminder, but something to hold onto, nonetheless.


Moments later we turned to see D standing knee-deep in the water, bent forward at the waist, with his head submerged upside-down. He probably would’ve gone all the way under had we not shouted for him to get out. It really didn’t faze him. He was quite proud to have found a way to feel truly wet.

silly cousins

As the party began to pick up again, we headed back up the hill to the picnic area. D ran up the stone trail first and shouted back to me, “Follow my path!” He stopped twice along the way up to look back and repeat the instruction, making sure that I was coming along well and didn’t need any help.

follow my path

Before we left the beach, though, I had to get one last shot of that amazing sky. I said a little prayer of thanks, as well, for the clouds that shielded the blazing sun and also kept the storms at bay.

shaded sun

The party got into full swing after that, and we enjoyed grilled hot dogs and good conversation. I was thankful that there were no harsh words or hurt feelings on this night, but instead there was lots of laughter and chatting among two sides of a family that had been joined by marriage. And there were presents, too, of course! I’m pretty sure this t-shirt from my sister was Kiwi’s favorite gift that night. How a girl born in 1994 could be such an 80s music fan is still a bit of a mystery to me, but it also makes her unique among her peers. I love that it gives us aunts something to share with her. [Note: The Bret Michaels thing is all on the youngest aunt. That’s something we’ll never share. :-p]

fave b-day gift of the night

I was especially pleased to catch a small moment of the girl and her dad, and even more pleased that they both smiled for the shot. Believe it or not, this is one of their best!

daughter and father

As we hung out and celebrated being together, we were able to see the sun setting through the trees. For just about five minutes we all watched in awe as it dipped lower and lower on the horizon and displayed the most amazing colors across the water. In those final few moments both of my sisters and I headed to the clearing with cameras in hand, knowing we would all regret it if that moment wasn’t captured. It’s scenes like this that remind me how awesome our God truly is and how amazing it is that He creates these moments just for our pleasure. Glory be!


The subsequent darkness made for a perfect cake lighting moment. I’m not sure how Kiwi ended up lighting her own candles but it made for a fantastic photo! Of course, the wind had kicked up a bit by then and she spent as much time re-lighting them as she did doing it the first time. No one really seemed to mind (except Kiwi, of course). The cake itself was a custom design by the birthday girl. She wanted fondant instead of regular icing, and she wanted zebra stripes. The ideal cake was a bit too pricey but her mom found a great alternative that kept the spirit of the cake intact and look exactly like Kiwi herself. Plus, the inner cake was marbled and tasted really, really good. So in the end, it was the most perfect cake for the most perfect of birthdays (so far).

birthday candles

During the rest of the evening we just fellowshipped together. We could see rain on the opposite side of the lake and being the country folk that we are (whether I like to admit it or not), the lightning show in the sky was too much to resist. The majority of us headed back to the water’s edge to ooh and ahh at the incredible (natural) light show. I found a solitary spot on the rocks at the top of the hill and set my camera on high sensitivity in hopes of catching one of those amazing bolts of electricity. I never did, but after holding down the shutter button for a series of 100+ photos, I finally managed to catch a single moment when the storm lit up the entire sky. Despite the grainy quality, I think this photo is the one I’m most proud of from the evening.

lightning in the clouds

Then again, this last one of the birthday girl is pretty special too. You can see her two best friends on the opposite side of the table, and our girl’s face is filled with joy. It wasn’t a spontaneous moment — this is the result of a hair toss and bright smile over the shoulder that she was demonstrating as her intended “hello” to a college guy who was due to show up in just moments — but the lack of spontaneity makes it all the better. This is Kiwi’s personality. This is her true smile and her dramatic flair and her contagious joy. This is the woman she is becoming more and more each day. What you see in this photo is her true laugh, and that’s better than anything else I saw all night.

birthday joy

June 27, 2010

a celebration throughout OZ

June 6th was a day of firsts for the girl. Her first train ride into the city, the first visit to Hard Rock Café (for me, too!), and her first Broadway musical. I’ve been patiently waiting for Wicked to make its way to Dallas since first hearing the soundtrack almost 3 years ago, and when the show was finally announced for this summer I knew there could be no greater birthday gift for the girl. She has dreams of Broadway, herself, and I always want to encourage whatever she has in mind, so I couldn’t think of anything more memorable for her.
We headed into Dallas via the light rail and went straight to the Hard Rock for an early dinner. Kiwi and I share a love of music, and her familiarity with 80s rock could easily rival those of us who actually lived that decade. We spent more than half of our time exploring the memorabilia and the Rock Shop, taking photos and picking up gifts for family members, and then we took some time for dinner while watching music videos that played on the monitors around the room. It’s so much fun for me to hear this not-quite 16-year-old singing along with songs from my high school years and to name the bands before the titles pop up on screen. It’s like hanging out with an old school buddy, which is how it seems to feel, more and more, as she grows up. She’s matured into such an incredible young woman and, whether she believes it or not, she exudes a beauty and a confidence and a true zest for life that draws people to her. At dinner she chatted up the waitress about the many pins she had acquired in her time with the Hard Rock, and when our check arrived the waitress had written a little note to her. My intent for the entire evening was to make Kiwi believe every single moment was designed just for her, and this provided a wonderful beginning.
dinner and a birthday wish
I had the most divine barbecued chicken quesadillas with chili sauce and handmade salsa, and Kiwi chose the Twisted Mac and Cheese, loaded with bacon and chives and sprinkled with toasted breadcrumbs. I think I’ll have to try her dish on my next visit!     click image to enlarge
She knew nothing at all about Wicked — and I chose not to fill her in beyond the basic fact of it being a sort of prequel story to The Wizard of Oz — so the fun for me was in watching everything come alive before her eyes, watching each element of the story register with her in relation to the film that we know so well. She spoke very little throughout the entire production, and I don’t even remember much audible laughter, though I do know that she found it very funny, just like the rest of the audience. But she didn’t say much. And after a while I began to see that she was simply letting the entire experience wash over her. She was taking every detail to heart and soaking it up. This we shared, as my emotional attachment to this musical runs very, very deep, as well. When the production ended and I looked at her for a final analysis, all she said was, “I don’t know why, but I can see myself doing that one day.” And that was the entire reason I wanted to give her this gift.

'Wicked' curtain scene from 'Wicked'
There are no photos allowed inside the Music Hall, so naturally I tried to sneak a couple. I mean, seriously… I’ve been aching to see this production for years. Of course I tried to document it! I managed to get a semi-decent shot before the curtain was raised during the overture, and then I attempted one more during the final duet of the show’s main characters. Those in the know will recognize the blue dress of G(a)linda the Good and the green visage of Elphaba, “Wicked Witch” of the West. Had I not been trying to conceal the camera so stealthily it might have actually taken focus and left me with a truly beautiful shot. Alas, this is the best I could do without risking eviction from the theatre. I still love the visual, though, and have a great memory of being sneaky and trying not to embarass the girl.
a night at 'Wicked'
I really wanted to get a photo of us next to a poster for the show, a singular visual of the night. Kiwi offered to take one of me.
a night at 'Wicked
And a young couple offered to take one of the both of us in exchange for reciprocation with their own camera. (I’m afraid we all failed each other miserably with blurry snaps.)

By the time we reached this point of the evening, she was ready for me to put my camera away. Note the forced smile that says, “Can this be the last photo, please?” Ha!
a night at 'Wicked'
clockwise from top left: Bonnie Raitt, Bon Jovi, The Beatles, Madonna, Elton John, Keith Richards, Bryan Ferry, The Smithereens, The B-52s, Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, Blondie, Willie Nelson, and Pantera.
The exhibit from The Beatles is actually a note written by George Harrison:
Dear Christine, Thanks for your letter. I’m sorry to hear that you lost your book at [unreadable] Park. I hope this may make up for it a little. The other autograph is for your friend. Love and best wishes from George Harrison xxx
Alongside the note is a piece of paper autographed by all four members of the band, beginning with an inscription from Harrison that says: To Christine     Love from Les Beatles
DART station
It seems that all of my trips to the downtown area somehow take me to the West End. Not that I’m complaining!
watching the city go by
She debated all day whether she would be happy living in the city. And then she decided.
House of Blues
We decided our next trip would include the House of Blues, and then I learned that this does not actually belong to that establishment. Doesn’t change our minds though!
Apparently, I have a sixth sense for planning trips on the weekend of comics and animé conventions. Remember last year? Kiwi saw a few costumed participants walking the downtown sidewalks before I noticed anyone, and when she began describing girls with pink wigs and boys with samurai swords I knew exactly what we were headed into. I tried to take a few inconspicuous photos from our train stop but finally decided that anyone who was walking around in an elaborate costume probably wouldn’t mind posing for photos. These girls were really awesome!
souvenirs   souvenirs
I’m a sucker for souvenirs and the ones I chose this night were just perfect for me! A bright, shiny thing (hi Mom!) and a new addition for my accidental collection. They make me smile every time I notice them! The nifty little coin purse was actually a sweet find. I’ve been searching for something like this with just enough space for a driver’s license and debit card plus a ring for a couple of keys — something I could carry in a pocket and eliminate the need to carry my 20-lb purse on long days of shopping or fun. That this little guy has a cute fleur-de-lis charm just made it all the more cool.
Kiwi found more souvenirs at Hard Rock Café than at the show, but what she found was truly cool. We also made sure the older boys got a little something, as well. The pictures are dark but if you look closely you’ll see a keyring with a spinning guitar (for the newest driver among us) and a metal guitar pick on a chain (for Kiwi’s brother). Thankfully, both went over very well.
souvenirs  souvenirs
And I picked up the coolest little stuffed bear for the last boy, in honor of his recent fashion decision to begin sporting a faux-hawk, but by far, the best souvenir of the evening came as an afterthought. Kiwi got herself a flying monkey. We both agreed that those monkeys were terrifying to us as children when watching the original film, but the stage show changed all perceptions. We have an empathy we never expected, and… honestly, isn’t this guy the most adorable little thing? My only regret is not picking one up for myself!

As usual, I found beauty and art at every turn. From the super-cool fixtures at the Hard Rock and incredible chandelier at the Music Hall to a city apartment with a balcony that spoke to me at an almost primal level. From the extravagant to beautiful simplicity. I have as much fun dreaming of living downtown as I do experiencing the activities of the day.
city balcony
Dallas Music Hall
Our day was everything I’d hoped it would be and more. My happiness came from fulfilling a dream to see Wicked, but the joy was found in sharing the experience with the girl, celebrating her upcoming birthday, and seeing the world through her eyes. These are the moments I treasure the most. Happy 16th, Kiwi Chelle!

June 25, 2010

a short exchange between sisters

The text message said:
New song to be my ringtone on your phones. “She’s Country” by Jason Aldean. Love this song!!!
I responded:
Sorry. I have to stick to my boy Christian Kane‘s Luckenbach version. No one else does country ringtone. Jason Aldean’s album is great tho!
She came back:
Yeah, but that song describes me perfectly!
And I texted:
But I’m the one who has to hear it and I want Kane! You lose!
And she replied:
Boo, you stink!!!

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