Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Pond and The Choice

July 24, 2010. The day that changed the course of Pepper's life forever.

This beautiful, little pond is in my mother-in-law's front yard. Since arriving at her house on Monday, I have spent several hours sitting in a lounge chair on the front deck, just listening to the singing of the waterfall in the pond, and enjoying watching the frogs, fish, and turtle that live there. It is so tranquil and beautiful, and I love it. It is about 4 feet deep, 12 feet long, and 7 feet wide.

I'm sure I have mentioned in a past post that my greatest fear as a mother is my children around water. When I was little, I had my head held under water until I almost passed out. It scared me out of my wits, and I have never forgotten the feeling. When I think about my kids being trapped under water, frightened, helpless, and in pain, it makes my hair curl and goosebumps pop up over my entire body. Because of this fear, I have always watched my kids like a hawk when they are around water. I also started them both with swimming lessons when they were 1 year old. Each summer I take them into the pool without a life jacket on and let them struggle for about 10 seconds to frighten them a bit. I want to teach a healthy respect of water. So far we have been successful. Snapper, though she is a very strong swimmer, still is fearful of water that is cold, dark, or moving. Pepper understands that if he falls in the water, he will die because he can't swim. But that knowledge did not help him yesterday.

I woke up yesterday morning in horrible pain, shaking with fever and chills. The doctor diagnosed strep throat, sinus infection, and double ear infections. Needless to say, I was out of it yesterday. I went to bed at 5 p.m. and left the kids with Matt. He enjoyed the evening on the side deck, chatting with his sister. They watched Snapper, Pepper, and our niece Alex playing in the side yard. After a while, they realized that Pepper had disappeared from the side yard, but they could hear him making some funny noises. As they listened, Matt realized that Pepper's noises were distress signals. He dashed through the house and into the front yard, certain that Pepper had encountered the wasp nest that is in the picnic umbrella there. To his dismay, Pepper was not being stung by wasps, but was struggling to stay above water in the middle of the pond. Matt knelt down, held out his hand for Pepper to grab, and pulled him out of the water. Pepper was fully clothed when he fell into the pond, complete with heavy, leather sandals. He managed to swim for at least two full minutes, a miracle considering he has never been able to swim for 3 seconds on his own!

This morning I had a long talk with my little boy. I assured him I was not angry with him, and then his whole story came tumbling out. He had been playing in the yard, throwing the ball for Grandma's dog, Kida. He accidentally threw the ball into the pond. Kida is a Golden Retriever who loves the water, but Pepper didn't want to wait for Kida to go in and get the ball. So he sat down on his bottom on the edge of the pond and reached in to get the ball. What he didn't know is that the pond is edged with river rocks, and the rocks are loose. The rock he was sitting on slid into the pond, taking Pepper with it. Here is what Pepper told me, as accurately as I can remember his words.

"I fell in the water and I got scared. I was going to die because I can't swim by myself yet. I was all alone in the pond. But Jesus came and he held my head out of the water. He didn't even let my hair get wet! He made me kick my hands and feet and my head didn't go under. I can't swim but Jesus made me swim until Daddy came to get me. I almost died, Mommy. But Jesus saved my life. Jesus was there with me."

Last night I was awake from 11 p.m. to 3 a.m. Wide awake, restless, and with a burning throat, I searched my mother-in-law's bookshelf for something to read. One book immediately caught my eye: "In My Father's House" by Corrie Ten Boom. I read for a bit before falling asleep. This morning, I read another chapter while I let my ear drops settle in my ears. The chapter was titled, "Five Is Not Too Young." In this chapter, Corrie describes how her mother tenderly lead her to Christ when Corrie was 5 years old. Shortly after I finished the chapter, Pepper came and climbed into bed with me. It was then that he told me how Jesus saved him in the pond. How amazing the timing of this conversation! Part of what I had just read came clearly to me. 

"It was so simple, and yet Jesus Christ says that we all must come as children, no matter what our age, social standing, or intellectual background...Does a child of five really know what he is doing? Some people say that children don't have spiritual understanding--that we should wait until a child can 'make up his mind for himself.' I believe a child should be led, not left to wander."

This morning, Pepper was still close to the personal encounter he knew he had had with Jesus. God prompted my heart to have a most important conversation with my 4-year-old son. During our talk, my normally un-conversational son was intently focused and engaged with everything I said. He interacted with me at a level that is very unusual for him. We talked about Jesus. When I asked Pepper who Jesus is, he promptly replied that Jesus is God's Son. We talked about sin, about how sin is anything wrong that a person thinks, says, or does. When I asked Pepper about sin in his life, he told me about how he has hurt Snapper by hitting her and pinching her. He has lied to Mommy. He has been mean to his friends by not sharing his toys. Then he was quiet for a moment before sorrowfully saying, "And yesterday I sinned too. I disobeyed you and got too close to the pond. It was an accident that I fell in. But I disobeyed Mommy and I almost died." My eyes filled with tears on this confession. My precious boy really understood the frightening events of yesterday, and took responsibility for his wrong. 

Then we talked about how everyone is sinful. We were born with sin in our heart. He was quick to remind me that Mommy sins too, and so does Daddy, and Grandma, and pirates, and Transformers. Cute! I explained to him that Jesus never sinned. He was perfect! He always shared his things. He never disobeyed his mommy. He was kind to his brothers and sisters. He always told the truth. When he was a man, he died to take the punishment for the sin of all the people in the world. His death and coming back to life made it possible for us to have a right relationship with God.

We talked about forgiveness. I forgive Pepper when he is sorry for a wrong he has done. Jesus forgives Pepper when Pepper asks for forgiveness. Pepper immediately apologized to me for disobeying me and going too close to the water. Then he wanted to ask Jesus to forgive him. At that point, I asked The Question. "Pepper, you know you are a sinner. You know Jesus is real and that He loves you. You have told me He saved your life in the pond yesterday. Do you want to ask Jesus into your heart, and ask Him to be your forever friend?" He answered with tear-filled eyes and a resounding "YES!"

I told him what he needed to do, how to pray that special prayer. Here is what he said.

"Dear Jesus and dear God, thank you for saving my life in the pond. Thank you for making me swim and for not letting my head get wet. You saved my life because I don't know how to swim. I am sorry for disobeying Mommy and for sinning. Would you please forgive me? And would you live in my heart and be my best friend forever? In Jesus' name, Amen."

He opened his eyes and looked at me with his face beaming. "Mommy! He did it! He forgave me, and now Jesus is my best friend forever!"

Yesterday morning if you had asked me if my son understood spiritual things enough to make a decision for Christ, I would have said absolutely not. But it just goes to show that only God can judge the matters of the heart. God directed sleepless me to a book that prepared my heart to lead my son down the path he was ready to walk. 

Oh Lord, thank you for your wisdom! Thank you for opening my blind eyes. Thank you for the simple faith and confidence my 4-year-old has in your presence. Thank you for making him swim and holding his head out of the water. Thank you for saving him, both yesterday and for eternity.

Today we rejoice and celebrate that Pepper is a forever child of God!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Happy Birthday Pepper!

My little man turned four last week. Where has the time gone? I will post pictures of his birthday celebration, but perhaps even more fitting is this scrapbook page I made showing his rich personality. We were waiting for Daddy and Snapper to come off of a ride at the amusement park, so we took advantage of our time to take some photos. Lots of laughter! This precious guy is such a delight!

Pepper woke up on birthday morning  to find the traditional signs in place over Gramma and Poppa's fireplace, with his stuffed animals and gifts all around. 

He opened presents--all Transformer stuff--and then we spent a low-key day at Gramma and Poppa's house. We had lunch at our favorite Chinese restaurant, too. In the evening, my Dad and my sister met us at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk for birthday fun. The Boardwalk is a wonderful, old amusement park right on the beach. Most of the time it is ridiculously overpriced, but on Monday and Tuesday nights in the summer, they roll back their prices to $1 per ride. Hot dogs, Pepsi products, and cotton candy are also $1 each. We used to go 3 or 4 times every summer when I was a kid, so it was a lot of fun taking my kids back to this old haunt of mine. Needless to say, we had a great time. The Pacific fog chose this one night to stay out at sea, so the evening was clear and the temperature around the mid-60's. Perfection! 

My dad is a great sport and took Pepper on the whip cars. Because of my strong tendency to barf on spinny rides (or in cars, on boats and airplanes, and when watching people playing video games), Matt gets spinny ride duty with the kids.

Snapper rode the Giant Dipper, the big wooden roller coaster that has been in operation since 1924. It is such a classic, and is still my favorite roller coaster of all time. It was my first real roller coaster, and now is Snapper's too! Look closely at this picture...Snapper and I are in the front row. Love, love, love it! 

Pepper is a total daredevil, it turns out! Had he been tall enough, he would have been on the Giant Dipper with us. Instead, he had to settle for the Log Ride and the Sea Dragon Coaster, both of which he was thrilled with! 

We ended our evening with a ride on the carousel, which has also been around forever.

 Pepper was asleep before we even made it to the highway. It was a great day of celebrating our big boy, who is growing up way too fast for this mommy.

Nieces and Nephews

It has been a long 2 1/2 years since I was last in Washington. This is where almost all of Matt's family lives. Since my last visit, the family has welcomed 3 more little girls. This puts us at 2 nephews and 4 nieces. Since I don't regularly blog about them, I feel okay using their real names. Snapper and Pepper will keep their bloggy names, though. That's the cautious side of me, I guess.

I met little Anjali for the first time in Southern California 2 weeks ago. Today I got to meet Bijou and Giana for the first time, as well as see the others again, too. They have all gotten so big! Today was Bijou's 2nd birthday party. I took a bunch of pictures, which I proudly share here. I love these little ones so much! And aren't they just too cute? Here are all of the cousins in our family, listed in birth order.

Snapper, almost 8. Belongs to Matt and me. You already knew that!

Christopher, 4. Belongs to Matt's brother Paul and his wife Jessica.

Pepper, 4. Belongs to Matt and me. You knew that, too.

Alexandria (Alex), 3. Belongs to Matt's sister Suzie.

Braeden, almost 3. Belongs to Paul and Jessica.

Bijou, 2. Belongs to Matt's sister Crystal and her fiance, Bryan.

Giana, 1. Belongs to Paul and Jessica.

Anjali, 1. Belongs to Matt's sister Julie and her husband, Timothy.

Ack, they're just too cute! I want to eat them! You know, nibble their sweet little toes and kiss their faces off! I really just can't help myself. I'm bubbling over at all the cuteness.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Road Trip: Week 2 in Photos

Week 2: Santa Cruz, California

Week 2 was our week with my family. My dad and step-mom live on 10 gorgeous acres in the Santa Cruz mountains on the Central Coast of California. This is where I grew up, and is the dearest place in the world to me. Most of the week was spent relaxing at the house and enjoying visits to favorite old haunts of mine...and eating the best Mexican and Chinese food ever!

My dad, Snapper's Poppa, took Snapper for a drive downtown in his new convertible.

My dad is the grill master, and made fabulous tri-tip for us. I have been so tri-tip deprived in Little Rock!

Matt and I took Pepper to play disc golf on our home course at De Laveaga in Santa Cruz. This course is known as one of the best and most beautiful disc golf courses in the world.

My sister hosted a 4th birthday party for Pepper. I spent a small fortune on this Baskin Robbins ice cream cake, but it was totally worth every penny!

Seabright Beach in Santa Cruz is my beach, and we always take the kids there when we're in town. We had a cool, mostly foggy day at the beach, but that didn't stop Pepper from building sand castles!

And the cold didn't stop Snapper from playing in the water. Matt took her out deeper and taught her how to navigate big waves in very cold water.

As for me, I spent most of the day on my soft towel watching the waves and the kids.

My Granny is 92 years old and has Parkinson's Disease. I spent a morning with her, and loved every minute.

Snapper is very close with her cousins LJ and CJ. I picked up these cute tops for them on clearance at Gymboree. Seriously, I only paid $5.99 for each shirt! How cute is that?

And here is my life. Need I say more? I am so blessed!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Locks of Love

In May of 2008, Snapper and I both cut our hair and donated it to Locks of Love in memory of my mom who died of ovarian cancer in 2003. On the way home from the salon that day, Snapper told me she wanted to start growing out her hair for Locks of Love again. In case you don't already know, Locks of Love is a great organization that takes donated hair and makes it into wigs for disadvantaged kids who are suffering from long-term hair loss. Check out their website. Maybe you or your child can donate, too.

Locks of Love 

Today was hair cut day for Snapper. My best friend Noel is just finishing cosmetology school, so we gave her her first chance to do a Locks of Love hair cut. Snapper's beautiful hair has been a struggle to maintain. It is very thick and very fine, and with all the swimming she does, it tangles easily. Even with special products, and lots of care, I still have had to work 15-20 minutes each day to keep Snapper's hair in decent condition. She was thrilled to cut it, and thrilled that a child in need will get to have her hair. It is a little shorter than we were expecting, but it is still adorable, and she loves it. I will let the photos do the talking from here on.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Road Trip: Week 1 in photos

Day 1: Little Rock, Arkansas, to Amarillo, Texas

Snapper and Pepper keep happy in the car by coloring, reading, and playing with toys in the morning, and watching movies after lunch. They are awesome travelers! No tears at all between Little Rock and Yosemite...2,400 miles cry-free!

Day 2: Amarillo, Texas, to Flagstaff, Arizona

We stopped to stretch our legs at Continental Divide in New Mexico.

On the other side of an Arizona desert rainstorm, I looked in my rear view mirror and saw this.

Our dear friends from Little Rock met up with us in Flagstaff on the tail end of their road trip. The kids didn't know, so it was a fabulous surprise! We stayed in adjoining rooms in a fun hotel.

Day 3: Flagstaff, Arizona, to Laughlin, Nevada

Snapper's #1 priority for our trip was to see the Grand Canyon. We all loved it, but I think she loved it most of all.

Day 4: Laughlin, Nevada, to Santa Clarita, California

We stayed in Santa Clarita with Matt's sister Julie and brother-in-law Timothy. We had never gotten to meet our little niece. I'll call her AJ. She is absolutely precious, and the kids loved her.

I had the delightful privilege of doing AJ's first birthday portraits. Here are my favorites.

Day 5: Santa Clarita, California, to Groveland, California

When we had the opportunity to spend the 4th of July weekend with my birthmom, grandma, and aunt at my grandma Nonnie's house in the mountains, we jumped on it. We had a great time relaxing and celebrating Pepper's birthday (a week early). 

This photo is four generations of my biological family!

Aunt Linda took Pepper to the fire station, where the firemen were great with him! He got to climb in the truck, "drive" it, and wear the real helmet. They gave him a badge and helmet of his own.

Nonnie made a Transformers birthday cake for Pepper, which was the highlight of his weekend.

Listening to a message from Optimus Prime on his new Transformers play phone.

Day 6: Yosemite National Park

For the record, Yosemite is without a doubt my very most favorite place in the whole wide world. And yes, peeps, I have been outside of the U.S.

Little hikers on the trail to Yosemite Falls.

We swam in the Merced River in Yosemite Valley, even though the water was not more than 50 degrees. SO cold, but perfect, beautiful, and refreshing. Matt even rescued a family whose boat capsized. None of them could swim, though all were wearing life jackets. Matt helped get them safely out of the current and to shore. 
See the waterfall in the background. Gorgeous! Or, as Pepper announced as we left the park, "Gorgeoufully Beautiful!" (Gor-juh-full-ee BEAUTIFUL!) I think that pretty much sums up my thoughts about my favorite place!

Right before sunset at Glacier Point, overlooking Yosemite. Spectacular!

Now we are with our best friends Stan and Noel in Central California. Noel is in cosmetology school, so she cut Matt, Pepper, and Snapper's hair. Snapper had been growing her hair out for Locks of Love. It was finally long enough, so we chopped 11 1/2 inches off today. She has an adorable a-line bob. More photos of that later. Tomorrow we are off to my dad and step-mom's house in Santa Cruz, CA. Looking forward to lazy days by Dad's pool, and afternoons on the beach.