The Profit of a Yard.

The best thing we did in 2013 was get sod in our front yard.

Previously, our slightly sloped yard was nothing but dirt – with a few weeds, a bunch of gumballs (or pricklies, as we call them at our house), and plenty of tree roots. It was a shame, as most yards in our neighborhood are too sloped to be properly utilized. And then there was our yard – not a bad plot at all – yet a wasteland of uninhabitable negligence.

We’re not much for big investments or big renovation-like projects, but even we could see that something needed to be done. So we got our yard guys to quote it, were surprised that it wasn’t as much as we feared, and within a few weeks, actually had….a yard.

My kids actually began playing in the yard nearly daily,

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We accessorized our yard with nostalgic items such as Slip n’ Slides,

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And it became so popular that odd traffic jams began occurring.

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Our yard became a gathering place, where Ali basked in the privilege of hostessing/bossing/organizing neighborhood friends to properly enjoy her domain.

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Although we have several neighbor families that we love to play with (one of which you heard about last week because apparently it’s Neighbor Month around here), our across-the-street neighbors became our most common guests, with playtimes and picnics occurring at least twice a week all Spring and Summer.

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Lachlan would drive over,

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Bringing his older sister Olivia, who is a few months younger than Noah.

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Ali and Olivia were tight from the beginning, as Olivia was more welcoming to Ali’s organizational bossing than Noah.

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Olivia played the part of the adorable younger sister that Ali always wanted,

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and Ali was a seven-year-old superhero to Olivia.

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But then, as the summer wore on, Olivia began to notice the other superhero in the family.

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And a new friendship began to develop.

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Noah had always been too busy avoiding the Realm of Girlishness to realize how fantastically awesome Olivia was, until all of a sudden, they were sneaking off for long conversations and impish giggles on the porch.

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There might have been one occasion where Noah and Olivia snuck inside, upstairs, and into his toddler bed to “Play Nap.”

He wanted to show her his blankets, he explained.

She liked his noisemaker’s music, she explained.

Their appreciation for each other’s company grew,

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And Olivia had to start diplomatically splitting her time between Ali’s maniacally organized activities and Noah’s casual conversations.

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The pinnacle of the summer occurred on the occasion of Olivia turning three.

She had a birthday party with a water slide and bounce house, and, to cut down on toddler bashfulness, there were only two non-adult guests – Ali and Noah.

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So basically the best thing that ever happened to my kids.

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And Noah paid her back well, becoming The World’s Best Birthday Party Guest.

He jumped and bounced and jumped and bounced and ate cake and jumped and bounced some more.

Then, when it was time for presents, he sat a respectful distance away from the gifting area, joyfully wearing his assigned Princess Party Hat, and made unpresumptuous recommendations as to which presents she should open next.

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At each present opening, he awarded the crowd with a creepy way-too-loud-and-excited laugh, thereby fully demonstrating glee on Olivia’s behalf.

And even when he realized that she’d gotten a Barbie Motorhome and she wasn’t opening it quickly enough for his boyish needs, still he sat, dutifully holding his balloon.

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He inched closer as the motorhome was assembled, still being somewhat thoughtful of her Birthday Personal Space.

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Until finally, he found his opportunity to participate.

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Noah.

He might be a player, but he’s not afraid of some pink.

Hosepipe.

If I understand the differences in regional dialects correctly, some of y’all don’t call this a hosepipe.

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You call it a “garden hose” or just a “hose” or some other type of gibberish.

In Alabama, we call it summer entertainment.

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That is, unless you’re not the one holding the hosepipe. Then it’s called a source of great anxiety.

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Or, more likely, a sure thing.

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But once you get past that initial moistening and it melts the southern summer heat off of your overclothed legs, you realize it’s not such a bad fate after all.

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The hosepipe holder, however, must take occasional moments of solace to ponder the gravity of his position,

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As well as study the Geometry of the task at hand.

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Like a Royal Guard at Buckingham Palace, he must also perfect his posture and carriage of weaponry.

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But don’t worry. He’ll remember you exist.

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And he’ll take care of all of your cooling needs.

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ALL of them.

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Until you start to wish that you didn’t exist.

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At which time you can simply move along, and let him get back to his training,

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His marching of the perimeter,

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And his technique testing.

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Because it’s serious work.

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Grueling even.

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But if the hosepipe is taken away, great heartache will commence.

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Grieving will become necessary for all involved.

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Well – almost all.

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Because turnabout…is fair play.

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The Gravity of Granting Permission.

Father's Day DadI’m not one to write a post for a particular day such as Easter, Thanksgiving, or Christmas, and especially not Father’s or Mother’s Day. I don’t even acknowledge it on Facebook or change my profile picture to include the appropriate parent.

I know – I‘m a social media pariah.

I get my cynical anti-bandwagon genetic makeup from my father. He and I are very much alike – we don’t express our deep sentiments too freely and especially not in public.

So the fact that I’m about to actually write a Father’s Day post should be noted as monumental. And also should not be expected to have a sequel. Ever. But I was overcome this morning with the urge to tell one story.

I got engaged at 18, and we set our wedding date for six months later when I would be the seasoned age of 19.

Chris had not only asked my Dad’s permission to marry me (and endured two weeks of complete silence before he received an answer), but had also asked his permission to date me a year earlier. Or, as he worded to my dad, “May I date your daughter with the intention of marrying her?”

Upon that first questioning, after spending an afternoon mulling over his own opinion (we’re also both mullers), Dad came to me and said “I’m fine with it, but do you want to date him? Because if you don’t I’ll tell him no and then you won’t have to do it.”

I had known I was going to marry Chris for at least three months (way before Chris realized it), so I was agreeable to date the guy. But I was fairly surprised that my Dad was skippy about the whole thing – after all, he’d spent seventeen years frightening away any potential suitors with his intimidating silence and vague illusions to loaded weapons. I’d never dated anyone, and Chris, although fantastic in every way, was twenty-three years old. A freaking adult.

But this story happened after the second permission granted by my Dad, and after Chris and I got engaged.

Within a month, I started battling crippling anxiety. The kind that would make me have to leave work because I couldn’t quit crying. I realized that this anxiety was centralized around my upcoming wedding when I couldn’t sleep one night until I hid my veil in the closet.

Being an analytical person, I had to understand why, because I certainly wanted to marry Chris with all my heart. I began to realize that I was terrified of making this decision. Nineteen-year-old me loved Chris and desperately wanted to be with him. However, this was a decision – the decision above all decisions – that would affect the rest of my life. What made me qualified to make this decision for every other iteration of me that there would ever be? And most crucially, was I absolutely positive that this was God’s will for my life? Because above everything, that was what I needed to know – the assurance that I was entering into this because God wanted me to, and not just because I selfishly desired it. If I had that, then I knew the future would be okay.

It was October, my wedding was in March, and during the next two months my anxiety steadily increased. I went from being a nearly unemotional person to a constant mess. And when I wasn’t anxious, I was anxious about becoming anxious. I told my parents and Chris about my inner struggle. I prayed. I cried. I searched the scriptures for reassurance. But God was silent.

Chris, meanwhile, was terrified, although he didn’t tell me this for several years. On the outside he was supportive and steady, but he thought I was working toward breaking up with him.

My anxiety ruined the holidays for me, and nearly halted my wedding planning because thinking about it filled me with an unbearable fear. (Maybe that’s why I was still arranging my cake plan forty days beforehand.)

Finally, on the evening of New Year’s Day, I broke down with my parents. In between ugly, hiccuping sobs, I told them, “I just need to KNOW. I need to know that this is the right decision! I can’t keep going on like this.”

And my Dad, who had always been reserved with his words and certainly had never shown any glee about giving his only daughter to another man, said,

“Look at me. You know how long I’ve prayed about this and that I spent two weeks agonizing over it before I gave Chris permission to ask you. Do you really think that I would have said yes if I wasn’t absolutely convinced that it was God’s will for you?”

The effect was immediate.

The burden disintegrated and I knew with my entire heart that he was right. This was the word that I had been looking for, assurance that I wasn’t even sure was possible, and now I was completely confident in my decision.

Although I still struggled with chemical anxiety until after the wedding, it had nothing to do with the upcoming marriage. My assurance never faltered again, and I was able to enter into marriage with an undoubting heart that was full of anticipation and joy. And my Dad seemed pretty happy, too.

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In the thirteen years that have followed, I have never, ever questioned my decision.

Because of the gravity my Dad took in helping me make that crucial choice, I now have a magnificent father for my own children – a father who takes on their upbringing with just as much passion and responsibility.

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(And a good bit of whimsy.)

So for all of the times that my Dad scared the crap out of me about associating with unsavory men (geez – I got grounded one time just because I was with my older brother and he didn’t call before we went somewhere else, so there was no way I was going to hang out with anyone worse than a not-call-homer), I am eternally thankful.

It was never many words, but the ones he did say shaped the rest of my life.