Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Let the Church Say "Amen"

We had a new event in our lives occur last week; not one that we wish to repeat often. However, it was still an occasion of peace and joy, even though it was mainly a time of sadness. Mark's father passed away on June 8, 2009. He was 66 and had been diagnosed with cancer the end of March. He had suffered a lot of pain and we are happy to know that he is relieved of that burden. We will all miss the time we will no longer have with him to get to know him better.

Our family hurriedly packed up and left the next morning to drive the 675 miles to Bessemer, Alabama, where Jesse Morris Jr lived out his entire life. Mark has one sibling, Rewa, who lives in Atlanta, who also drove there that night with her husband, son, and daughter. Their cousin Evon has been living there for the past few months to help with Papa's illness, and her daughters Kimberlee and Kristy joined her from Utah and Florida. So it was a full 3BR, 1 1/2 bath house. It was really good to be together though, and Nana was greatly cheered by the presence of her family members. She wanted lots of input for the funeral arrangements, which kept us busy.

Nana is a night owl, who rarely goes to bed before 2 am. She falls asleep sitting up around 8 pm, but then gets up and goes after a nap. Apparently, her entire family is the same way. We frequently had visitors late into the night and enjoyed getting to know them better. Nicknames are commonly used and some members of the family I only know by one name, like Duck, one of my favorite conversationalists. She's Boo's little sister. Sometimes I don't follow the conversations so well, since I don't know the people they're talking about or totally get the euphemisms or jokes. As always, I made a fool of myself more than once. But I was proud for knowing w/o asking what a "knee baby" is.

Church members, neighbors, Friends-and-Relations took good care of us and apparently there is some traditional fare for a death in the family. We ate fried/rotisserie chicken, potato salad, and cake every single day we were there. Do not misunderstand; we were all grateful to not have to shop/prepare/cook and there were several other Southern sides that added variety. My favorites were the baked beans with bacon, the squash casserole, and the lemon pound cake.

The funeral was held in Papa's church, Petty's Chapel African Methodist Episcopalian (AME) Zion's Church. When the preacher announced the full name, Felicity blurted, "No wonder there are so many black people here!" It was attended by the many friends, family, and church members of Papa's life, dressed to the nines in black, gray, or white (mostly black) and fancy hats to boot. The music and preaching was a little louder, livelier, and more dramatic than our kids typically get, so they were somewhat surprised. I think the best is the sudden participation in the middle of prayers, sermons, or music. Lots of standing up and/or calling out: "Amen!" "Well!" "Fix it!" etc. My father-in-law was a prominent member of this congregation and served as the Chairman of the Board of Trustees. He did a lot for the church and was there every week.

Felicity and Katrina sang a song with their cousin Kel that I accompanied (no, not on the Jazz organ) a la the Primary Children's Songbook: "Papa, I Love You." There were some off-key moments, but somehow, it made it more endearing since they're obviously related and not ultra talented. Tee Tee Rewa bought them white knit dresses that Felicity stained pre-funeral while coloring with a black crayon, but they still looked lovely, although their attention span deteriorated during the Euology. Katrina got some laughter when she whispered a little too loudly, "Is he almost done? GOOD!" The funeral was longish for the kids, especially Matthew, but thankfully the cemetery was not too far away. It was a very nice service and we felt thankful to be there. I learned new things about my father-in-law, specifically of his generosity, humility, and service.

In Alabama, when passing a funeral procession (which is heavily escorted by cops from neighboring towns), everyone stops as a sign of respect until the entire caravan has disappeared. I'm not just talking about the folks trying to cross the street, but also the cars driving the opposite direction on the other side of the road, that come to a complete stop in the middle of a 4-lane highway. The whole journey was driven at about 15 mph. With tired and hungry (read: grumpy) kids in the van, it was truly a necessity to listen to Bill Cosby on the way. The children appreciated the short burial service and it was the first time I've seen the coffin lowered completely into the ground for loved ones to drop their flowers.

We returned to the church for the "repass" (also called repast) of a spread of soul food; no funeral potatoes in sight, returning home to entertain visitors. It was an exhausting day and we packed up 2 days later to drive home absolutely wiped out from lack of sleep but very happy we could be there. Funny thing, I haven't needed to eat for several days.

We love you Papa! We will miss you.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

2 Cool 2 Be 4Gotten

Another schoolyear is finished, we are into summer. My girls felt like martyrs because they didn't have yearbooks like their classmates did. However, there was still lots of fun to be had and partying to behold. The weather for Felicity's was lovely; not too hot or cold. The boys enjoyed coming to school and eating popsicles too.

Felicity, Lorin, and Faith
Felicity wanted her hair down for the party- you can see why this is a rarity. She loved getting soaked.

Felicity & Mrs. Kinney, last day of school
Katrina & Miss Lawson- Kindergarten teachers have a special place in mother's hearts- first ones to take over.

Katrina's locker partner, Ellie. Best buddies- sadly, in different schools next year.
Let the summer begin!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Perfect little boys

Whenever I complain about something one of our sons is doing that is driving me crazy, Mark tells me, "He's a perfect boy." We have two of them. This week, Matthew and Maxwell seem to be having a "most difficult child to handle" contest. Help me decide who is winning.

Yesterday, Max:

  • Whined endlessly
  • Screamed when I asked him to communicate using words/signs (like more, please, all done, etc- and I didn't ask him like that! I asked him, "Are you all done?" His response? "AUGGHHHH!")
  • Would not so much as let me fold laundry without holding him
  • Threw the food I tried to give him on the newly mopped floor
  • Flushed another shoe down the toilet
  • Threw temper tantrums when I wouldn't let him play in the disposal, garbage, or toilet
  • Went straight for the mud when we went outside
  • Clung to my legs while I cooked

Today, Matthew:

  • Poured dishwasher detergent powder all over the floor and then dragged it through the house
  • Locked Max in a room to torture him
  • Sprayed furniture polish all over the floor
  • When I put him in laundry room for Time Out for spraying the polish, he dumped the contents of the CCA donations box everywhere, as well as the dirty laundry, and mixed them together.
  • He then went upstairs to use his bathroom. He didn't want to see the contents of the toilet he'd just filled, so he threw lots and lots of TP in the bowl. What a surprise, it overflowed, with all the awful ingredients, all over relatively newly cleaned bathroom.
  • Since the shower curtain was marred in the incident above, I sent him to my shower to bathe. He decided to mix the shampoos and conditioners (including my b-day present conditioner) together in a giant concoction.
  • While I was showering, he took the furniture polish to the new piano and sprayed it inside the keys. Yeah, the same stuff he got in trouble for just an hour before.
My boys are normally not this extreme. This is kind of an exceptional week. Typically we have lots of good things juxtapostioned with the, uh, things that make them perfect little boys. In any case, they each have a lot going for them to win this this contest!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

My brother Bill's a Fireman Brave cause he puts out fires

Matthew's preschool was a co-op this year; the moms took turns teaching/hosting and year-end festivities. I arranged a field trip to the local fire station but Matthew threw up at 2 am the morning of the excursion. He was sad to miss it, so I rescheduled with some other friends from church.

The firefighters were great to give us a tour and let the kids turn on sirens, horns, lights, etc. We went all over the firehouse and they answered our many questions. Matthew and I enjoyed trying on the protective gear.

Just a little short

"This gives me a headache!"

There were 30 new recruits going through "Fireman Kindergarten" who were happy for a diversion. Females are accepted into the program if they can lift and drag a 250-lb dummy. (Don't look for any women from our family anytime soon.)

Overall, it was a fun, educational, and free outing. We made them some cookies to say thank you and they were very grateful. We highly recommend it!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Fathers & Sons Campout

Mark took Matthew on his very first Fathers and Sons Campout. Matthew was so excited, it was all he could talk about for days. We had a great time buying some supplies to help them get ready. Mark got home and had to pack up some things, but Matthew was filled with anticipation and sat in the sweltering car for a long time just waiting.

Mark never takes pictures, but I sent the camera along with him to capture some memories. They went to a campsite close by with a lake.

Throwing rocks is legal here?!

It was really hot, and the ground was hard, but they had a great time... and not much sleep. I think this is a great picture of Matthew getting a drink next to his Lightning McQueen sleeping bag that usually resides at Nana's.