Tuesday, July 24, 2007

mountain bound...

The car's packed, the kids are buckled in, and as you read this, we're probably barreling down the road toward Pitkin, Colorado. We're heading to our neighbors' cabin in the Colorado Rockies! Eleven days of doing nothing, and all day to do it in. We're not taking any big road trips from the cabin this year. Instead, we're going to learn how to slow down and relax, and enjoy the peace and tranquility of nature. No electricity, no phones, no internet. Truly, we'll be cut off from the world for a time, except for a couple of times when we'll head down the mountain for groceries and to check in. I. CAN'T. WAIT!

I'm taking some scrapping supplies. I've planned out 18 pages, and managed to get the photos, papers, ribbons, brads, tools, pens, ink pads, and who knows what else in THIS.

I can easily slip all of this into my favorite tote bag, throw a couple of scrapbook mags on top, and hit the road. It'll be fun to scrap in the afternoons when the afternoon thundershowers send us indoors.... or out on the deck while the boys roll logs down the hill... or maybe even by lantern light in the evening.

or who knows. Maybe I'll come home and confess that I never even took the scrapbooking stuff out of the car. That's the beauty of this vacation. We're not making plans. I bet we'll even come home relaxed, instead of needing a vacation to recover from our vacation. Ahhhhhh.


Dani turned Sweet 16 yesterday.
Word to the Mommas. When did THAT happen?
Time keeps on slippin' slippin slippin, into the future....

We celebrated Saturday with a princess party. Dani, the girl who has never been a girly girl, wanted a castle bounce house, tiaras, and roses, so we obliged her. What FUN it was! She had a dozen friends over, and they made shish kabobs, bounced 'til they could bounce no more, listened to CD after CD after CD of Dani's own mixes, busted open a pinata and eagerly scooped up the candy, sang happy birthday, oohed and ahhed over presents, sat in the bounce house talking 'til midnight, and generally had a wonderful time.

Sixteen. I could swear I was 16 just a few years ago. Sixteen?? Wow.

Aidan needed new shoes today. We were packing for our trip to Colorado, and I remembered that he'd outgrown all of his shoes at the very end of school. He's been wearing Crocs and sandals all summer, neither of which will do in the mountains. So off we went to Target, where we discovered that he passed sizes 12.5 and 13, and is now wearing a size ONE. He's been waiting for this milestone for a long time, and he had a bounce in his step all day. He was so cute trying them on, and insisted on several tests that each pair of shoes had to pass before he decided. First, he had to be able to get them on easily. (Aidan's flat, wide Fred Flintstone feet make putting on shoes a pain in the rear.) Second, he tried them out on the carpet ANd on the tile to make sure he could still run super fast. And thirdly, he sat "criss cross apple sauce", to make sure the shoes were comfy when he sat that way. Cracked me UP!

Ian's excited for school to start. He announced last week that he wantes to skip Kindergarten and go straight to 12th grade. Methinks it's gonna be a looooonnnnnng school career with this kid! He hasn't even started Kindergarten, and already he's bored with school. In some ways, he's so grown up, but in others, he's still our baby. When he packed his backpack for the car trip to Colorado, the first thing he put in was one of his beloved stuffed wolves. I questioned him, because last year, he accidently left another wolf at the cabin, and the owners couldn't find it. He was devestated! Occasionally throughout the year, he's asked, "Do you think Wolfie is cold? Do you think Wolfie is alone? Scared? Crying?" This time, he says, he'll be extra careful.

So we're off, in about 2.5 hours. Maybe I oughta get some sleep, eh?

Our summer interns are house sitting for us. That's the unexpected bonus of housing college kids for the summer - free house sitting! Have a great week, and think of us up in the mountains, enjoying the cool, dry, mountain air. :)

Wednesday, July 18, 2007


"Do you ever tire of it?" I asked Becky.
"Never," she answered. "In fact, it still makes me cry sometimes."

I've heard Dani sing a thousand times, but Monday night was the first time I've seen her perform for an audience. She's performed at camp for a couple of years running, but I didn't get to see those.

This night, she was plugged in for the first time, using Luke's guitar and sound system, and opening for Poor Rich Folk at Fortress's Monday Night Coffee House. I was worried. Do you have a stool? Have you practiced with Luke's guitar? How do you know you'll be comfortable playing it? Don't you need to do a sound check? Dani answered each question with a roll of the eyes. "Mom. It's oh.kay. Chill."

I sat front and center and took pictures like a good scrapbooking Mom should. Someday, when Dani's accepting her statue for songwriting, they'll flash this picture up on the screen.

She performed beautifully and with such grace. Not a nervous bone in her body. She just went up there, sat down, introduced her songs by explaining why she wrote them and what they mean, and then she played. So comfortably. So beautifully. So easily.

"She has a beautiful voice," said Becky. "It's the kind of voice I always wished I had - silvery." I thought that was the neatest description. I wiped away the silent, hot tear that was rolling down my cheek. SO proud. My daughter, the singer-songwriter. Her lyrics, so deep and mature and meaningful. Powerful.

A few minutes later, when Luke took the stage with Poor Rich Folk and settled into his music, I watched Becky as she watched her son. I could see the pride and joy in her face. I could feel it, even. It's true what she said : you never DO get tired of it. And sometimes, it still makes her cry.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

meeting Ira

You know, it's odd, this blog thing. We end up knowing people we may never actually see in real life. Strangers often know more about our daily goings-on than our next door neighbors do. We become friends with people we otherwise would never come across. Sometimes, we feel like we know a person because we read their blog, but they've never heard our name, not once. (I read the blog of an extreme outdoorsman/ TV reporter who lives in Portland, Oregon, for instance. I'd recognize him and his wife on the street, but they've never heard of me, EVER.)

Today, I finally met one of my blog buddies. You've probably heard of him, 'cause he's been linked in my sidebar since the inception of this blog. In fact, if you'll go back and read my very first post, it was he who inspired it.

Ira Lester Hays. What a name for a baby boy, eh? He's named for his two grandfathers, and what an awesome legacy he's making for those names! Ira wasn't given much hope for survival in the early days. Before he was born, the health problems were evident. He faced odds that made those who loved him already weak with worry, sick with sorrow. He also forced a community of friends, acquaintances and perfect strangers into a life of faithful prayer. We ALL pulled for Baby Ira. Around the world, people shared his blog with other bloggers. Bracelets were sold to raise money for his care. People sent in photos featuring the bracelet in their vacation photos and at their family picnics. Complete strangers wore Ira bracelets, entered him on their church prayer lists, and waited quietly for Joe's latest blog reports.

I was a mere acquaintance. I'd actually met Joe and Laura once, briefly, when they were in town visiting. They'd been members (the MINISTERS, actually) of my church, but had moved to Brooklyn before Darren and I showed up on the scene. That Sunday, I happened to have nursery duty, and it was Sophia I held conversations with. The only words I spoke to Joe were "You're welcome", after he said "Thank you" when he picked up Sophia from my care. I wasn't reading The Blog yet at that time. In fact, I think it was that weekend that I became aware of its existence.

Since that time, Joe and I have become blog friends. We've shared emails, playlists, photos, IM chats and comments. I check his blog almost daily, and love it when Laura joins the fun and blogs in her own words. Even so, I sometimes wonder.... is it weird that I've come to love them so much? That I feel like I know them so well? This afternoon when I walked in to the restaurant to meet them for lunch (along with many of their old friends - MY friends, too - from Fortress Church), Joe stood and threw his arms around me. "Stacy!" he said enthusiastically. "It's so good to see you!" Then Laura, whom I'd imagined maybe didn't even know my name, hugged me and said, "Stacy, I'm so glad to finally meet you." I'm fighting those silly little spurty, burning tears that come when you're happy as I type this. Because, see, we DO know each other.

And then I met Ira. Oh!! He's beautiful! He's God and Miracle and Grace and Beauty and Life and Amazing Love wrapped up in one perfect bundle of energetic little boy. He didn't want to be held, he wanted to run. He looked at me with pleading eyes and dramatically pointed to the floor, twice in quick succession. I knew what it meant. "I. WANT. DOWN!!" He made mean faces on command, he laughed and giggled and knew when he was being cute, he threw the appropriate fit when he didn't get his way.

In short, he was real. REAL. This precious baby, who all this time has been a picture on a screen, a tug on my heart, a prayer on my lips, a video and a sound track and a news bulletin... today, he was real. He wouldn't let me hold him, but he gave me five. He smiled for my camera, and I kissed his hand. Precious, beautiful Ira.

God is real, y'all. When you start thinking too hard and say to yourself, "What if this is all a scam? How do I know it's real?" Well. Here's how you know. Find your way to Brooklyn. Knock on Joe and Laura's door. Meet Ira.

For today, I saw God in a little boy.

I saw God for real.

I met Ira.

Monday, July 16, 2007


It all started with a cat.

That's my friend Ginger standing (leaning?) next to me. We met on the internet some 8 or 9 years ago, but not until 2004 did we finally meet in person. One day, she posted some photos of a tiny kitten that her husband found in a parking lot.... abandoned, still with its umbilical cord attached. They nursed Baby Kitty with an eye dropper, but didn't want to keep her forever. It just so happened that at that moment, we were getting ready to close on our first house, and we'd been promising Dani a cat for years. "When we buy our own house, you can have one," we'd always said. I emailed Ginger, who lives 4 hours away in San Antonio. We worked out a plan, and before we knew it, we were co-cat-parents. We continued the bottle feeding, fell madly in love with our first pet, and decided that we're cat people. We call her "Ashlie" because of her gray color; her middle name is Ginger's last name. When Ashlie cat-yacks on the family room floor and I'm cleaning up yet another hairball, I often threaten to send her back to her first Mommy. (That would be JAMES, though, not Ginger. LOL!)

I remember well the first time we met James and Ginger in person. They walked in to our front room, and the guys immediately started talking about architecture and house stuff as if they were picking up a conversation they hadn't gotten to finish before. Ginger and I hugged as if we hadn't seen each other in a long time. (Ha! We'd seen each other NEVER!) When they left, Darren, who has an uncanny ability to size people up with amazing accuracy upon first meeting, said, "I like them. They're good people."

And so they are. In the three years we've known them, we've managed to see each other on a sorta regular basis, even though our homes are 4 hours apart. Ginger and I have marathon phone conversations at least once a week, sometimes more. We see each other online everyday. We share a common faith, similar parenting philosophies, the same wacky sense of humor, and scrapbooking. We even share friends now! She knows my IRL (in real life) friends, and I know hers. And the cool thing? My IRL friends adore her too. :) She is one of my closest friends, and it's true when I say that I thank God for her.

"Yes'm, old friends is always best, 'less you can catch a new one that's fit to make an old one out of." (Sarah Orne Jewett) Ginger's one of the latter. :)

She'll be embarrassed by this post. She's probably wiping a tear away right now 'cause quotes always get to her. If she doesn't eat something soon, she'll get cranky. When she eats, it'll likely have cilantro on it. She doesn't pay attention to the cash register screen when she's paying for groceries. She can tell I'm having an off day even when I think I'm hiding it well, and she's not afraid to ask why. She gives honest, thoughtful answers, and doesn't expect any less of her friends. She laughs loud and often. She loves 80s "new wave" music. She hates 70s sappy story songs. She leaves sweet notes on her daughter's bedroom bulletin board. She loves stray kittens as long as she doesnt' have to keep them. She's selfless with her time, and generous with her friendships. She's nosy, but not gossipy. She's beautiful, but not caught up in beauty. She's funny as all get out, and she doesn't even realize it most of the time. She's says "HEY!" when you answer the phone, and she says "Um." Just "Um." A lot. In the middle of a conversation, she just stops and says "Um."... and then carries on with whatever she was saying. I love that about her. It's just so.... Ginger! Love her love her LOVE her. So glad to call her my friend. So glad to be blessed with the opportunity to create a page for her friendship album (presented to her by her best friend at her 40th birthday party on Friday night.) So glad James found that cat in the middle of a parking lot on a rainy night in San Antonio... and that Ginger posted the photos... and that I emailed her about it...

... and the rest, as they say, is history.

(click to enlarge)

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

I can dance if I want to

Well, I can TRY to dance if I wannoo. Remember this 80s tune?

We can dance if we want to,
we can leave your friends behind
'Cause your friends don't dance
and if they don't dance
Well they're no friends of mine

I missed the dancin' days of my youth. See, when I was growing up, dancing wasn't allowed in my house. When I got to high school, I was only allowed to go to prom and other school dances if I promised not to dance. My parents needn't have worried - by then, I was so embarrassed about not KNOWING how to dance that I didn't dare try. Lately, I've been dancin'. I still don't know how, but I'm not letting that stop me anymore. I refuse to be embarrassed by my lack of know-how, or by my flabbiness, or by ANYthing that is so much fun, and so good for my soul.

Last night at the Poor Rich Folk concert, I danced with Royleesha and Amanda. Good times.

Last week, Cara and her boys were over, and I don't know WHAT got into us exactly, but before I knew it, I had "100% Funk" blaring from my speakers, and we were dancin' all over the place. I moved the family room furniture against the walls and got my GROOVE on. Between gales of laughter, I danced so hard that I worked up a good sweat and got my heart rate goin' ninety-to-nothin'. Aidan impressed us with his floor spinning and break dancing (where DID he learn to do that???), and we all had the BEST time. I think Dance Night at the Kocurs should be a weekly thing. Wanna come?

Saturday, July 07, 2007

BLOG CHALLENGE: Things I Love About Summer

You know, they say that Texas has 4 seasons just like the rest of the world. It's just that ours are Almost Summer, Summer, Still Summer, and Christmas. For that reason, I'm not a big fan of good ol' summertime. But this year's been different. Because of all the (highly unusual) rain, the temperatures have been tolerable. We haven't even hit 100 yet! I'm actually enjoying summer again, sorta like I did when I was a little kid.

I love the sound of cicadas at dusk. As the sun settles into the horizon, and sometimes for a few hours afterward, the air is saturated with the song of the cicada. To some, the sound is irksome, but for me, it conjures up memories of playing tag at dusk, just as the street lights came on... another hint that the day was over and it was time to go inside.

I love the boom-boom-kaboom of fireworks. We're 7/8ths of a mile from the Botanic Gardens, where the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra presents Concerts In The Garden every Friday and Saturday night. Each show culminates with a fireworks show, and at the beginning of every summer, it takes us a few performances to remember that the booming is a result of the season's pyrotechnics. "What's that? Gunshots?? Did someone blow a tire? OHhhhhh. It's the fireworks!" We can see them through the trees from our front yard, but the best viewing spot is from the boys' bedroom window upstairs.

I love the concerts themselves. This year, we only made it out to one performance, and that was tonight. We invited our friends Ray and Julie to go with us, and we all kicked back in the soggy surroundings with our picnic, our drinks, and the smooth sounds of Dark Side of the Moon. The FWSO did a tribute to Pink Floyd, my favorite favorite favorite band of all time. It's so cool to be sitting outside while the music plays, watching the sky turn darker and darker, noticing the first star and making a wish, feeling the breeze pick up as the sun goes down... and just chillin' with good friends.

I love late nights. I'm pretty lax about the kids' bedtime in the summer. If we want ice cream at 10 o'clock, well okay then. Let's do it! You wanna play Monopoly, and it's already 8:30? Sure. Why not? I love that we're not bound by a school schedule in the summer, and that we can play as much as we want.

I love the colorful Crepe Myrtles that line every street in town. One of the only species that's hardy enough to survive our Texas heat, Crepe Myrtles are grown in abundance here. We have 4 on our small lot alone! My favorites are the ones that bloom a deep blood red, but those seem to be few and far between. The most common ones are white and bright pink, but when July brings golden-brown lawns and withered, sad pecan trees, the Crepe Myrtles are a welcome spring of color.

And finally, what I love about summer is the travel. It's vacation time, and that means that we get to go places, and people we love are often passing through! Our guest room gets a big workout in the summertime, housing our Fortress interns for 8 weeks each year, and accomodating any number of friends and families on random weekends throughout.

At this moment, I'm singing summer's praises. Ask me in another 4 weeks how I'm feeling, though. I have a sneaking suspicion it won't be as pretty. ;)

The Challenge: Summertiiiiiiiiiiiime, and the living is EEEeeezzzzzzy. Tell us how you feel about summer. This summer, a childhood summer, summer traditions, random summer memories, summer sights and smells and sounds. Whatever. Wax poetic about summertime!

Friday, July 06, 2007

Kocur Kids Rock

We've been on a cleaning frenzy this week. Seriously. We haven't deep cleaned like this since we house swapped with the Irish people two years ago! I've swept enough cat hair from the stair runners and corners and fan blades to knit a scarf. Nasty. And sorta embarrassing that we've been living in squalor without even realizing it.

You know, a good thorough cleaning requires good music to keep you going. I didn't even SUGGEST that the kids made a CD... they just did. Dani sat at the controls while the boys chose songs from our iTunes library. Dani'd play a snippet of a song, and the boys would say either yay or nay. Here's the playlist they ended up with:

1. have a nice day (bon jovi)
2. summer of '69 (bryan adams)
3. what if his people prayed (casting crowns)
4. brick house (commodores)
5. home (daughtry)
6. hotel california (eagles)
7. how to save a life (the fray)
8. black balloon (goo goo dolls)
9. holiday (green day)
10. right here (jeremy camp)
11. waiting on the world to change (john mayer)
12. hanging by a moment (lifehouse)
13. sweet home alabama (lynyrd skynrd)
14. running just to catch myself (mark schultz)
15. how you remind me (nickelback)
16. hey there delilah (plain white t's)
17. street corner symphony (rob thomas)
18. hands open (snow patrol)
19. come on back to me (third day)

One of the songs got a unanimous vote from all three kids. "What If His People Prayed" was a song we jammed to over and over last summer on our Colorado road trip. The boys love shouting out "...stop asking OPRAH what to do!".

Both boys started singing the guitar part at the beginning of Street Corner Symphony... "na-na nah nah, na-na nah nah" as soon as it began playing, so it easily made the cut, too.

When Brick House came on, Aidan shouted, "That's Mommy's song!" Sure enough, it's been my ring tone for months, and every time my phone rings, I bust out dancing. LOL!

Both boys became familiar with "Hotel California" almost 2 years ago when Dani learned to play it on guitar. Just before I began typing this entry, I swear they must've played it 5 times in a row. As soon as it ended, one of the boys would get up and hit "back" and let it play again. They sat on the love seat in the front room, looking totally spaced out. Cracked. Me.

Aidan didn't want "Waiting on the World to Change", but it was the only one Ian was really adamant about, so it made the cut. Dani was surprised at how many songs the boys knew and recognized as she clicked through iTunes. We're a music-loving family, and I can't tell you how happy I am that my kids have picked it up so naturally. :)

Here's the CD cover art that Aidan made. Can you read it? It says "Kocur Kids Rock". My kids are so cool.