Saturday, April 30, 2011

Praise you in the storm

I have struggled for days to write about my feeling and thoughts regarding the tornadoes that devastated my home state on Wednesday. I want to write about that day and how incredibly difficult it was when one of the tornadoes bore down on a city which held so many dear friends and loved ones. I don't think I can capture the agony of waiting to see them post on facebook that they were okay or waiting for a text back.

Most of them were kids. Students that I had worked with over the years. Directed them in plays, prayed with them, attended Alabama football games with them, loved them.....

It was hard. It still is. I know people directly affected through either loss of life or loss of property and I just don't know what to say.

I want to be there. My former church is doing amazing things to help out in the relief efforts. I wish I was there to pitch in. All I can do is contribute financially and pray. And I am doing the latter without ceasing.

Our pastor wrote a blog post that sums up my feelings about what is going on perfectly. And he has worded it far more eloquently than I can, so I am just going to post his blog here.

And I will continue to pray.

God and the Tornadoes

Monday, April 25, 2011

A wonderful Easter weekend

I will admit it. Easter has turned out to be a hard weekend for me. For some reason it is the one holiday in which I really miss my family. Every year I long to take my kids to the huge Easter Eggstravaganza at my old church. I want to go to the Easter Cantata like I did for so many years and I want to go to my Mom's house for her wonderful Easter lunch after an inspiring morning of worship at my former church.

For so many years I would get to my church (I used to be on staff there) at 6:30am on Sunday mornings. Then for 6 hours I would be in the trenches with all of our wonderful volunteers working as hard as we could to make the services special and meaningful for all of the members and visitors to our church.

After church we always went to my parent's home and I would invite people who didn't have anywhere to go for Easter. Every year the guest list changed, but it was so nice to collapse after a long morning in my Mom and Dad's cozy house and visit with friends. My grandmothers always came and we got lovely pictures and if there were kids there that year, I would organize an egg hunt.

I miss it. And though we have had wonderful friends in Kansas City who have welcomed us into their homes over the years on Easter Sunday, I still get very homesick. So, honestly, I am kind of glad it is over. But we did have a wonderful weekend as the million pictures that you are about to see can attest.

Here are the little ones getting ready to attend an Egg Hunt that my Building Better Moms group held on Good Friday.

Bennett and Will with their friends, Crosby, Levi, and Rachel.

I made this cake for the party. It was supposed to look like spring flowers, but I am not sure what it really turned out to look like. Rob called it my Willy Wonka cake. I'm cool with that.

Bennett and I made this bunny cupcakes together. Sure, they would have looked better if I had made them by myself, but I love the fact that she helps me in the kitchen. Whenever I get out my mixing bowl, she runs into the kitchen and hops on her stool to help. I love that.

Easter basket cupcakes.

Some wonderful ladies I have gotten to know in KC.

Bennett with her bestest buddy, Levi. These two are such a trip together.

That night some girls from my book club snuck away for an evening to go see Robert Pattins......ummm.... I mean, Water for Elephants. Great movie. Check it out if you have time.

The next morning we took our kids to a local children's farmstead called Deanna Rose's. We love it there and already have our family pass for the season. Here I am trying to make my kids act happy to be in a picture.

They would rather be hanging out with the goats.

Hey, goat. It's good to see you. I like your beard. Say hi to your mother for me, okay? (Sorry. Random Andy Samberg/Mark Wahlberg Saturday Night Live reference. If you got it, then you're pretty cool. If not, move on to the next picture. No harm done.)

Getting ready for an evening worship service at our church.

Afterwards we went over to our friends, the Haines, house for dinner. We love this family. We all went to the same church in Alabama and I have been in numerous plays with Mary. Her husband, Terry, volunteered on my tech teams for years, I baby-sat their youngest son when he was a baby, and they were at our wedding. We helped throw then a going away party when they moved to Overland Park having no idea that we would join them here 3 years later. But, we are so grateful that we all ended up in the same town. Their friendship has meant the world to us.

My family.

Our kids with Josh and Caleb Haines.

I was so thankful that Mary had made a resurrection cake. I had fully intended to make one, but I had baked so much for my Mom's group, that I just didn't have it in me to bake any more. Fortunately she had one waiting on us. She made this cake on Good Friday. She hollows out the cake and lays a miniature Jesus in there and then seals it up with a cookie.

On Easter Sunday the "stone" is rolled away and Jesus isn't there anymore. What a wonderful way to teach kids the story of Easter.

Bennett was fascinated.

The next morning we got dressed and went to church. My Dad says that this may be his all time favorite picture of Will. I might agree.

An Easter Egg hunt on the lawn of the church after services.

A bird flew into the window of the church and was injured. He was hiding underneath our car. Leave it to the Websters to spend Easter Sunday luring a bird out from behind our tire.

I didn't get any pictures of the kids with their baskets from the Easter bunny, but Aunt Lisa (or Aunt Weee-sa) sent these adorable baskets and we handed them to the kids after church.

They loved them!


After naps we went down to our park to get some photos of the kids.

Me and my baby....

..... who is growing up to be a beautiful big girl.

The three loves of my life.

Okay, so this is my favorite shot of the whole bunch. Isn't it fantastic? It's got a great journalistic feel to it. This could be in a catalog for Easter. I just love it.

Teaching little brother the art of hunting for eggs.

Anyone remember this fantastic shot from last Easter?

We tried to recreate it this year. It didn't work out nearly as well.

Bennett thought it was funny. She was game for trying.

Absolutely beautiful.

My family

Although we had a wonderful weekend filled with fun adventures, good times with friends, and much needed family time, we were so mindful of the reason we were celebrating.

'Til on that cross as Jesus died
The wrath of God was satisfied
For every sin on Him was laid
Here in the death of Christ I live
There in the ground His body lay
Light of the world by darkness slain
Then bursting forth in glorious Day
Up from the grave He rose again
And as He stands in victory
Sin's curse has lost its grip on me
For I am His and He is mine
Bought with the precious blood of Christ

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

We just got back from a 15 hour road trip to West Virginia. Yes, 15 hours. Well, technically it was a 12 hour drive, but with all of the stops, it took us 15 hours each way. That was 30 hours in the car with my children in a 5 day span.

Rob was leading worship at an annual conference in Charleston, WV. My in-laws live in Parkersburg, WV, so we went along for the ride and visited Granddaddy and Mamaw while Rob was at his conference.

I shall break down our trip into three parts.

-Visiting Bennett and Will's grandparents. It was absolutely wonderful to see them. They aren't able to travel much, so this was a real treat. They have only seen Will twice since he was born and so we were thrilled to see them.

-We stayed in a hotel b/c my in-laws recently downsized and moved into a small apartment. The good thing about this was getting to snuggle with my Will at night. Bennett slept in the other bed and Will refused to sleep in his pack and play, so I slept for 4 nights with his little body curled up against mine and his hand resting on my back. Heaven.

-Creating wonderful memories of Granddaddy on the floor playing airplane with the kids, of Mamaw cooking their favorite foods, of long games of hide and seek, and of just being together as a family. Rob's father is in the early stage of Alzheimer's so it was especially meaningful to see him interacting with his grandchildren and loving on them so much. The quality time with him alone was worth the whole trip.

The Bad
-My son throwing up all over the Continental Breakfast at the hotel 5 minutes before we were to leave for church. I had to throw him in jeans and a wrinkled shirt for a very formal church service. And I had to drag him away from his beloved pancakes which made him scream and cause my lovely neighbor in Room 321 to knock on the walls in annoyance.

-Did I mention it was a 15 hour car ride? Did I mention we did it twice in 5 days?

The Ugly
-Bennett deciding one night that she had to sleep with me and Will. The two of them in the same bed caused them to get second winds and laugh for 2 hours. Until midnight. Will kicked me repeatedly just because he thought it was funny and Bennett sang Edelweiss at the top of her lungs for an hour. We heard several poundings on the wall that night. Apparently, Room 321 was not happy. Neither was Mommy. I hid under the covers and prayed for it all to go away. It did not.

-Some kids traveling with a youth soccer team stayed in our hotel and they decided to run down the hall and pound on our door THREE times waking us up each time. Mama was about grab a shot gun.

-Will and Bennett fighting like cats and dogs over whether or not to watch Tangled (Bennett's choice) or Baby Einstein (Will's choice.) Of course these fights occurred in the hotel as I was desperately trying to give them something to settle them down so I could brush my teeth and get ready for bed. It clearly didn't work. Room 321 was about to call child protective services. I wouldn't have blamed him.

The Verdict

I would do it again in a heartbeat. It may seem crazy and insane while I'm in the middle of it, but I love it. I love the family time together and the chaos and just the pure madness of it all. I love singing songs in the car together, I love watching Bennett and Will learn about new places, I love crossing state lines and explaining where we are, I love reading books to them in the car, and I love the way Bennett always wants to stop and eat at Cracker Girl (Hmmmmm....maybe I shouldn't admit that. She really does mean to say Barrel.)

Anyway, I had better love it. We have an 18 hour drive coming up this summer to Washington DC, then a 12 hour drive down to Alabama, and then a 14 hour drive home to Kansas. The good news? My kids have been in more states than I had been in by the time I was 20. Trying to look on the bright side, friends. It's either that or a lot of medication.

The Footnote

This trip had obviously been planned for a long time. Way before we knew that anything would happen to Kirby. It was so unfortunate that we had to leave Meg only 6 days after he passed away. Needless to say I was worried about her the whole time. When we got home, Rob and I both noticed that she had gotten significantly whiter around the mouth and our neighbor who was taking care of her said that she didn't eat for 4 days. :-( Sigh..... But she was thrilled when we came home and I am happy to report that her appetite is back to normal.

I hope my neighbor in Room 321 is home as well recovering from his maddening stay next to the Webster crazy house. I should send him a fruit basket.

Pics to come soon!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Moving On

It's hard to imagine that our house would be so quiet now. After all, we have two small children and a boisterous golden lab. But it is. When the phone rings now, I don't have to rush to get it before Kirby starts howling. I don't hear the clacking of his paws on our tile floor. It's quiet without his soft pawing at the back door and without his soft yelping every time he dreams.

Our vocabulary has changed. I find myself still beginning to tell Rob to let Kirby out before he comes to bed. We are having trouble saying our dog instead of our dogs.

Bennett is okay. Thanks to our friend Rani, she now has a wonderful book about doggie heaven that she loves to read. She was so happy that our friend Mary brought cupcakes over because, "that's what all good Southerners do when there's a death in the family." Will still calls for "Kuh-bee," but every day that changes to less and less often.

Rob and I are sad. We miss him. But the one affected the most is our other dog, Meg. She is missing him terribly. She seems down and depressed. She runs outside looking for him. She lays down where his cage used to be. She barks at us like she is desperately trying to ask us what happened. So we are giving her lots of extra belly rubs. We have taken her to the dog park to let her play. She is getting tons of extra kisses from the kids. But I know she is sad.

So are we all, Meg-girl. So are we all.

Friday, April 1, 2011

So long, old friend

You can all call me on it. You can call me on my complete and utter hypocrisy. I have complained for years about my dogs. Especially Kirby. I've grumbled about him under my breath and quite publicly. We've joked about Kirby having nine lives and wondered when the 9th would finally run out.

But you all know that was utter nonsense, right? Because as we had no choice but say good-bye to our beloved friend today, I was (and am) a total mess. He was a member of our family. He was kind of like the pensive and and quiet relative who sat in the corner and observed. But a family member nonetheless.

Our golden lab, Meg, would be more like a rowdy cousin. She has to be in the middle of everything. She can't stand to be left out. Kirby, on the other hand, didn't need much. Just a head scratch here and there. A fresh water bowl. An occasional belly rub.

He wasn't the smartest dog. He couldn't do tricks, fetch, or follow commands. His breed isn't known for being the brightest. But he could love you. He never growled or snapped or scratched. He was a gentle and quiet old soul who just needed love.

Rob discovered Kirby in a graveyard after his Grandfather's funeral. Yes, Rob literally rescued him from the grave. Rob and his brother Frank were walking back after the graveside service and they saw some kids gathered around an object hiding in the bushes. Rob and Frank looked closer and saw that it was a dog. A mangy looking dog of an unknown breed who was malnourished and very sick.

Rob stuck his hand out knowing that dogs tend to lash out and bite when they feel scared or cornered. This dog simply licked Rob. Rob and Frank loaded the dog into their friend's pick up truck and took him to the vet. They discovered through x-rays that he had been shot with a pellet gun and that the bullets were still in him. Other than that though, he was fine. Rob now had a dog. And the funeral was held in Kirbyville, Texas. Hence the name of our dog.

Rob brought Kirby home some time later and from then on, Rob had his sidekick. I came into the picture about 9 months later. Kirby did not take too kindly to me at first. When I went over to Rob's house for the very first time, Kirby simply looked at me, raised his leg, and peed on the wall. He was marking his territory and telling me that this was HIS house and that Rob was His friend. How wrong he was.

When Rob and I got married and I moved in, Kirby peed all over my moving boxes. This launched my campaign of animosity against Kirby. But it was all an act. He became my dog too. I vented loudly to anyone who would listen about the dumb dog who peed on my stuff but couldn't even sit on command, yet I snuck him food under the table. I grumbled about the stupid dog who just laid around and wouldn't fetch, but I gave him long belly rubs when we were alone together.

We brought Meg into the family in 2006 so Kirby wouldn't be lonely. Rob and I were never home and so we got a big dog to run around in the yard with Kirby. And fortunately they became best friends. Kirby adored Meg and the two were inseparable. We were also so lucky in the fact that Kirby loved my nieces who spent the night with us all the time, and eventually he fell in love with our kids as well.

He has been so gentle and kind with our children. He has never once snapped or growled at them despite all of the fur pulling and all of the little hands reaching in his food bowl. He loved when we had company and especially loved it when Daddy Suttle came bearing treats.

Kirby's favorite things to do were stare and howl. He could win a staring contest against any man and if you started to howl, he would howl right back with you. This was a great party trick that was utilized many times over the years.

Kirby survived many scares. He survived that initial shot by a gun when he was a puppy, he survived starvation and neglect as a puppy before Rob found him, he survived being lost in the woods many times, he survived a dog attack about 7 years ago, and he survived falling out of our friends pick-up truck while driving back from the lake.

But he just couldn't beat this cancer. And honestly, this has happened so fast. He has had cancer spots for years and we always have them removed. He just had surgery a few months ago to have one removed and was given a clean bill of health. My Dad took him to a check-up 2 weeks ago and he was pronounced healthy. Monday of this week we were playing in the back yard.

But two days ago he started acting differently. His heart was racing and his legs were shaking. He couldn't walk and began to stumble everywhere. He was laying in unusual spots in the house and wouldn't get up when he was called. We took him to the vet yesterday just thinking that he had an infection and we needed to get him medicine. We were surprised to find out that the cancer was in his lungs, spleen, and abdomen. There was no hope except for aggressive chemotherapy that would only buy us a little more time. And he's 12. That's a lot for an old dog. So, this morning Rob took our sweet dog to the vet and said good-bye to the friend he had rescued from the grave a decade ago. Even though I knew he was old and had recurring cancer, I am still in a state of shock. 36 hours ago I had no idea any of this would happen. It happened so fast and I am so incredibly sad.

My heart is hurting. I will miss my kids calling out for Meg and "Kuh-bee" every day. Kirby was one of their first words. They look for him every day. Bennett pets him on the floor constantly. I am so sad that they probably won't remember him. I am so sad for out other dog, Meg, who has lost her best friend. We've always laughed that our family was split down the middle. Three boys and three girls. The girls side just got the upper hand when we lost our Kirby.

Thanks for the memories, K-dog. I may have complained about you loudly, but you know it was an act. You know that you had me wrapped around your paw and I want to thank you for all the years of love and joy you brought to our family. You were there for Rob when he needed you the most and you were a companion to me through such transitional years of having babies and moving to different houses and cities. We will always love and remember you and be grateful for how much you loved our children and for how much you loved us. So long, old friend. You were a very good dog.

Kirby's saviors. Literally. Rob and his brother Frank found Kirby and never looked back. Here is Kirby with his cousin, Callie.
Look at young Kirby. I had almost forgotten how many brown spots he had. They turned all white in his later years.
Kisses for Daddy.

My very first picture with Kirby. This was our introduction. He was sniffing me out to make sure that I was a keeper. I'm glad he finally approved.

When Rob and I were first married, we kept my nieces a lot. We loved spending weekends with them and back then Kirby was our only baby. They loved helping us take care of him.

I absolutely love this sweet picture.

Me with our Kirby

Rob and his sidekick

Another weekend keeping Piper and Emmie. We loved to take them on long walks with Kirby.

Piper always had a special bond with Kirby and always wanted to take care of him.

I think Meg may have the hardest time of anyone now that Kirby is gone.

Trying to get a family Christmas card picture when I was 7 months pregnant. Meg was completely rowdy and Kirby, as always, was gentle and cooperative.

Introducing Kirby and Meg to baby Bennett

These two were about as close as dogs could be.

Party animal

Piper found her favorite pillow.

Please guys, I'm too shy. No pictures, please.

So long, Alabama. We're Kansas bound.

Piper saying good-bye to her cousins.

I am SO glad we have this picture. This is how I will always remember Kirby. Mid howl. The hound dog in him just loved to howl. It was awesome!!

Best friends.

Here's Bennett at 14 months. Petting Kirby was one of hr favorite things to do.

Me and my Dad walking our sweet dogs right before Will was born.

Sutton and Emmie with their doggie cousin. They loved playing with him.

My Mom on the other hand tolerated him. She doesn't like dogs at all, so of course, Kirby would always seek her out and lay by her, much to her chagrin. :-) I think she secretly loved him as much as the rest of us did.

My first baby.

Kirby survived three Kansas winters. We didn't know if this Southern dog could make it through one. But he loved the snow and loved to play in it.

Rob and his dog.

Our sweet boy.

Having a staring contest with Will. I have no doubt that Kirby won.

This picture was just taken less than 2 weeks ago. This is usually what you will see at our house when the kids are outside playing. I can't believe how recently this picture was taken. We had no idea what was about to happen.

Morning hugs and kisses with Kirby. Our normal family ritual.

Our last picture as a family with 3 boys and 3 girls. We miss our Kirby so much already. It's not the same without you here, old fella.

And finally, our all time favorite picture of Kirby. Hanging out on a jet ski with Daddy on one of our many trips to the lake. This is how I want to always remember him.