Wednesday, November 25, 2009


One of my very favorite things is groups of children singing (shouting) off key dressed as turkeys, pilgrims, and native americans. These kind of things make me tear up. There is just something wonderful about seeing my children walk out on their own, searching the crowd for a familiar face, giving that excited little smile and wave, and then showing off what they've learned. It warms my heart and gives me happy mama tears. I'm incredibly grateful for these crazy little turkeys.

Monday, November 23, 2009

New Place

We have spent two nights now at this new little house. The move was exhausting and my body is not happy with me, but it's done. Well, one side of it is done. We are still living out of boxes. The unpacking is slow. But we have had some wonderful surprises as we have moved into this little cottage house. First of all, our furniture fits wonderfully here! It never looked right in the other house. My favorite pieces looked small and out of place there. But as soon as we got them over here they just fell into place. Secondly and more importantly, we have felt instantly at home here. I think we have finally found a space that fits our personalities. As we've moved out of the other house we've realized that all we are going to miss is our wonderful neighbors. And that is a big thing. Our boy is very sad that he can no longer just run next door to his best friend's house. It is truly a loss. But we are not far away, so I plan on getting him over there as often as possible. Best friends are not lost by location. Right, good friends?
In light of this week of Thanksgiving I believe I must say that I am grateful that God knows us better than we know ourselves. He knows where we should be and He knows why he's taking us through the fire. It is truly comforting to know that His plan, though not always easy, is good.
We are going to make it and I believe we are going to live better than we were. There is much to be grateful for this week. Including the joy of cardboard box forts.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

see you in a bit

Well everyone, in the last post I made a comment about moving in a week. Some of you may have thought I was being poetic. I wasn't. Because we waited so long for the short sale approval we all wanted to move on quickly once we got it. So we have one week to move our two story house into a one story house. And considering that I put off most of the packing in case the sale didn't go through, I have a lot to do!
That said, I'm sure you'll forgive me if I'm a little absent here this week. I promise a full update once we get somewhat settled. And by settled I mean surrounded by boxes and furniture in a new house.
I'm off to pack another box (ughh). See all of you in the bloggy world soon.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Muddled Reflections...update on encouraged

It's been a month since I told you that we received an offer on our house. A month since I told you that the deal was a short sale. A month since I told you that our house future was in the hands of some random person at a bank. It's been a month since I told you that we signed a lease on a funky little house. A month since I told you that we were walking in a spirit of hopefulness.

It took a month for this deal to go through. A month of fraying nerves and uncertainty. A month of stressed husband and wife. A month full of days doubting hopefulness. A month full of days cursing at inanimate papers. It took a month to be released.

It will take about two week to physically move on. A week to downsize our two level with a garage house into a one level without a garage house. A week to sort and pack and say goodbye. Another week to sort and unpack and feel our way around the new.

But what of our hearts? What of our trust in ourselves? What of our sense of home? How long will it take to move on? How long will we be sad? When will we feel settled again? Will we auto drive back to this old house or give out this address when someone asks "where's home"? When will the unfair leave our minds?

Yesterday we got the keys to our new rental. So last night we got a babysitter and we went on a date. Then we went to the funky little house. We went to make choices; what to bring, what to leave. But something happened during that time. As we were trying to picture it, the old blue couch here, my oversized dining table there, we also pictured ourselves among our things. We saw a child playing on a swing we could put in that old tree. We saw a room filled with dolls, and dress up clothes. We saw a boy laying on the floor, video game controller in hand. We saw a fire going in the fire place and a lovely family meal. We saw a Christmas tree and stockings hung. We started to see that the things we actually love had little nooks that fit them perfectly. We saw that life goes on.

I'm not saying that the next few weeks will be a breeze. The next few weeks will bring the same stresses and challenges that every move brings. I think that this particular move will be very emotional for us all. And I will probably have Steven move the couch around the living room four or five times like I do with every move. But we will go on. Eventually this funky house will feel like home too, even if I do think the kitchen is seriously ugly.

We are a strong family. We will lean on each other and comfort each other and each do our part. Well, the smallest one might make some mischief and order others to do her part, but that will just make it feel like a normal day at the Hardgrave house.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Our Thanksgiving Tree

This is our Thanksgiving tree. This kid and mama made poster has come out two weeks before Thanksgiving, for the last five years. For two weeks leading up to this wonderful holiday we prepare our hearts for gratefulness by putting leaves on the tree that tell of our blessings. There are no limitations. It can be a very serious thanks or a silly one. After Thanksgiving, when I take it down to store it for the next year, most of the leaves come off. But one thanks leaf from each person is left up permanently as a sort of history. These leftover leaves tell the story of stages of life, of what was accomplished, of what was precious to a 2 year old. Some are left from family members who shared our meal. I look forward to reading them each year. To remember the good and the silly and the God gifts. Here are a few of the things we have been thankful over the years:
  • Sicily is thankful for ladybugs (she had been a ladybug for Halloween)
  • Chris is thankful for a good God
  • Analiese is thankful for Chris and Sicily
  • Megan is thankful for red leaves (our beautifully striking front yard trees of our new house)
  • Steven is thankful for good neighbors (the first year we moved to Matthews)
  • Jon is thankful for turkeys and turkey hunters
  • Annie is thankful for laughter
  • Megan is thankful for my beautiful healthy family (written the year Analiese had two surgeries)
  • Steven is thankful that the whole family has friends (written during the 2nd year of law school, after a rough first year, when we were all starting to feel at home and making friends that we'll treasure always)
  • Analiese is thankful for her pink blanket (still has it)
  • Sicily is thankful for bananas (she eats one daily)
  • Chris is thankful for Analiese and Sicily

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Sunday Leftovers...the results

Earlier this week I told you about the ugly jar and our attempt to be a more uplifting and encouraging family. Well the results are in: Chris wins by a landslide. He had a total of 7 complaints this week. Steven came in at the bottom with 48 complaints. And the girls brought up the middle with 15, 13, and 12. We've learned a lot about ourselves this week.
  • Chris abides by several bible verses and is slow to speak, therefore gaining victory. I realized this week that he really doesn't say a lot. I knew he was quiet but I guess I didn't realize how quiet until compared to the rest of us.
  • If you aren't a morning person, you really shouldn't speak until you're fully awake. 5 of Chris' 7, and several of mine, were earned in the early morning. Neither of us are morning people. However, the other three in the family are, so they always want to chat. Chris and I have started to give in, but obviously we aren't nice during this time, so we are going back to not speaking to anyone until a good hour after we wake up.
  • If calling a bank or other such organization, in which you'll be passed from one representative to another, is part of your to do list just start the phone call by putting 5 names in the ugly jar.
  • Steven is not normally a 48 complaints a week man. He spent a lot of time this week on the phone with the aforementioned banks.
  • The girls are passionate or dramatic or female. You pick. Never once did they earn one at a time. The often earned five at a time because if they are going to complain about one thing, they are most certainly going to let you know everything else they don't like as well.
  • Most of the time, I'm like Chris. I don't speak a lot. But when I do complain, I'm like the girls and I also put 5 at a time in the jar. We're just women who know what we want, and woe to those who don't give it to us. Pray for Chris and Steven.
  • We are all very sarcastic.
  • We complain a lot about the world around us, but not a lot about each other. That's good, right? No, I guess not. We've got to work on that whole loving others thing.
  • We are all very competitive, because we actually tried to beat each other. That's right. That means that in a normal week we all complain a lot more!
We did so poorly this week that we have decided to start over. We're going to do it for another week, and this time it's not about who wins. We're each competing against ourselves. We had a big talk this morning over breakfast about how blessed we are. Our number of complaints shows that we don't live like we know that.
Every year a few weeks before Thanksgiving I put up a Thanksgiving tree and each year we add new leaves to it. On each leaf is something that we're thankful for. I think spending more time this week on what we're thankful for will help us to see that our complaints are silly and wrong. Our hearts need adjusting. We are blessed. God is good. We need to start using our words to proclaim it.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Born Runner

Thursday afternoon the boy decided that he wanted run a local 5K being held on Saturday. So with no training, only the knowledge that he could run a pretty quick mile, we all went out early this morning in the cold so that he could run a 5K. He lined up at the start with his dad, and ran hard. His biggest fear going in was that he would come in last. The rest of us knew that wasn't going to be a problem. He finished 29th out of 58, and 3rd in his division (15 and under). I would have finished looking like I was about to die, but he just gave it all he had at the end and killed it. Then he stuck his hands in his pockets, in that casual Chris way, and strolled over to the sidewalk as if it was no big deal. I think he's found his sport. Just one more way that he and his runner dad are alike. My boys, I'm so proud of them.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Autumn Fairies

The autumn fairies have arrived

glowing earth colors

changing green to red with their special magic.

feeding the birds and sending them on their merry way

to destinations of warmth.

building homes for the smaller sprites

should they need shelter from the cold.

their eyes dance with fairy dust

and if you watch ever so closely

you might get to see their feet lift from the ground

as they begin to fly to that imagination place,

that place we adults in our wisdom forget;

that place of magic and beauty and things bigger than ourselves;

that place of untouchable joy and compassion;

that place that cares for the birds and the sprites alike.

the autumn fairies know that place

their eyes tell the story of it.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Oh, Sicily...

After I posted yesterday about trying to be more positive, I walked into Sicily's room and found this:

Isn't it pretty? Isn't she creative? That's not what I said yesterday. My name went into the jar. And Sicily spent the rest of the next half hour doing this:

While this was meant to be punishment, she thought it was fun and asked if she could "erase another wall". What am I supposed to do with that?! Oh, this third child of mine. We have friends who have joked about starting a bail fund for their daughter. We laughed when we heard that, but now, watching this child in action, we are starting to consider doing the same. She is a true mischievous sprite! Her eyes dance with it. She is so much fun, though, and gives the very best hugs which she knows instantly wins our good graces. I love her which is a good thing because I can't take my eyes off of her for a minute!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Sunday Leftovers

Our church is doing a sermon series on joy. This is a subject that I feel has been neglected for me personally this year. I have spent far too much time peaking over the edge of depression and I fear I have forgotten what true joy looks like. I've been reminded that sometimes joy is right in front of me. In the form a girl with a hula hoop on her hip or rainy day toes splashing about or conquering a mountain top goal. It's there, but I look right past it. I see instead the unfair and the bills and the to dos. I miss it. I miss the joy moments that mean so much.

"Do everything without complaining or arguing." Philipians 2:14

I've let my complaints steal my joy. We all have. After Sunday service each family recieved an "ugly jar". The idea is that for every complaint you make this week you put a dollar in the jar. At the end of the week all of the money goes to charity. Sadly we realized quickly that a family of five seriously gripy people can't afford a dollar a complaint. So we are putting names in the jar, each name is worth a nickel, and at the end of the week the person with the least names in the jar gets the money and we'll match it for charity. (Don't think of us as cheap. We've had a rough financial year. Oops, I think that statement puts my name in the jar. This is hard!)
It's been a bit of a wake up call. Steven and I complain a lot! And the kids have picked up on it. Not good. We complain in anger, we complain in exhaustion. Even our humor is mostly sarcastically wrapped complaints! We are trying to be positive and encouraging this week. I think it's going to be a good exercise for our little family. Or we may all be ready to blow our tops at the end of the week from bottled up complaints. I'll let you know how it turns out.