"A Great Hotel"

Today I visited my grandmother in the nursing home. 

She has always been a big part of what was good in my life. I have always been amazed at how she has seemed to known all of us in a special way and am thankful for the many hours she spent talking to Lord about what was going on in our lives. She was keenly aware of what others needed and often was the one to provide a meal or a new dress on just the right day. 

Memaw is 92 years old. She fell while trying to get to the bathroom and as a result of her fall and her other health issues she had gone to live at the Mesa Springs nursing home in Abilene Texas.  After a series of falls over the Thanksgiving holiday, my mother had to take her to the emergency room. They ran a series of tests and took many x-rays. She saw many doctors and endured much pain.

To hear her tell it... she spent the day in Dallas working with my mom. She fired the "clients" as they would not cooperate with her agenda. She instructed the doctors that she must get on the road by four o'clock if she wanted to be home before dark and get dinner together.   She even apologized at the end of the day for her complaints and told my mother that she really did enjoy spending the day in Dallas with her.

Lately her mind has settled in different moments of her past and she has trouble knowing exactly where she is and whom she is with.  Sometimes she is in Whitney (where she grew up) or she is looking for her husband at dinner even though he passed away many years ago. The inner struggle she experiences keeps her longing to go home and at the same time grateful for the excellent care she is receiving. 

When I walked down the long hallway on my to her room tonight, I did not really know what to expect. As I passed the days trash being hauled away and the other elderly looking for a friendly face, I began to nervously anticipate how she would respond to my arrival. She was so excited to see my faced. I hugged and kissed her. She held my hand and we talked about her pajamas. I had to explain to her every so often where she got them. My sister Kimberly hung scripture on the wall. We pretended that it was perfectly normal for us to discuss whether or not she should try to go to the bathroom and she told me that the food here was good. She said it was not anything she or I would fix and in fact she wasn't really sure what any of it was, but she said it was good and "every bit of it was free".  I was filled with so much emotion at the sight of her frail body and her blatant vulnerability.  

And then she looked me straight in eye as if her mind was perfectly clear. She squeezed my hand and said, "Sara - I am glad to see you doing so good. For a while you weren't and I was worried for you. You were sort of sick I guess. But now I can see you are just perfect...I am glad to know that." 

How did she know?


I kissed her goodnight and she said, "Overall, it's a great hotel!"



The Farmer

My husband grew up on the farm amongst the cows, pigs, bugs, horses, chickens, cats and dogs. His childhood experiences include sleeping with a pig in his bed, stretching a chicken to death (age 3 - I will have to tell you the whole story sometime), birthing a calf, riding three hours in a small car with a squealing pig, picking up cow poop and throwing it like a snowball, swimming in "tank water" (I don't really think it is water), holding the "shit pole" and much, much more!

As for my childhood animal experiences...I think we owned a dog once.

Although my husband is not a farmer, he is actually a school administrator; his farming background serves as a lens that he filters everything else through. I try to remember this when he wears his muddy boots on the living room rug:). You know what they say... you can take the boy out of the farm but you can't take the farm out of the boy. So even though he puts on a coat and bowtie most days and spends his time trying to improve the quality of education offered to underprivileged teenagers in Oak Cliff, I still always think of him as a farmer.

The part I love the most is his drive for excellence. He never seems to be slowed down by the amount of hard work or time a meaningful project will take, he just keeps reaching for the excellence that will make a difference in the end. I know he gets this from his early days on the farm.

Every year he goes to different classes at his schools and reads Dr. Seuss. However, he goes about it in a way that I would never have thought of! This year he actually rode through Oak Cliff on his motorcycle dressed like Cat and the Hat. I drove over to Oak Cliff to watch the parade down Jefferson Street and to document the event. This picture tells more about my husband than I ever could. I am grateful for his perspective and what it brings to our home.



We had a wonderful time over the Thanksgiving holiday. I am thankful for safe travel, wellness, family, time with my husband and a few treasured moments with my Memaw whom I have learned much from.

Check out this video on my brother's blog. It speaks for itself!



Family Traditions

Elizabeth's breakfast in bed - 2008

Christmas decorating - 2007

When I think about my childhood one of the things that always comes to mind first is all of the traditions we had as a family. My mother had a talent for making simple things special and for bringing out the joy in all occasions. One of my favorite traditions in our house was breakfast in bed on your birthday.

I can't remember the presents or the different birthday parties, but I clearly remember breakfast in bed with my family. My mom would get up extra early and make breakfast that often consisted of cornflakes with a big scoop of ice cream on top (you should try this - it is delicious). She would put it on a tray that was decorated with pretty dishes and beautiful napkins. She would would wake up the rest of the family and they would all come in and wake me up by singing happy birthday. She would always ask if I wanted to open my presents first or eat my breakfast first (I always picked the presents!). Then we would all pile up in the bed and talk and laugh until we had to get ready for the day. Every year I would sit up at night in anticipation of this blessed event. I always knew it was coming and it never failed to be the highlight of my day. Even in college, my mom gathered my siblings and came to my dorm room to continue the tradition.

This tradition (along with others that she created) made me feel apart of something bigger and greater than myself. It created a connectedness that is still strong among my family now. As an adult I learned that my mom used special china and pretty cloth napkins mostly because she was out money to spend on paper goods and that the ice cream was put on the cornflakes in an effort to disguise the lack of biscuits or other more traditional breakfast foods. The presents usually consisted of clothes that we needed and she wanted us to have something "fresh" (as she would say) to wear that day. No matter what else I encountered that day, I always carried with me that feeling that I was special and important to the people that mattered the most to me. What a great thing to be apart of. Now, my siblings all continue this tradition with their own families and find it equally rewarding. It has never been about money or stuff or anything extravagant, just about being apart of something special.

As a mom, I aspire to create the same connectedness in my own family. For the past several years James and I have started a fun holiday tradition in our home. Every year we travel for Thanksgiving and before we leave I get out all of the Christmas decorations, set up the tree, rearrange furniture, vacuum, dust, get the fireplace ready for the stockings and leave town with the house perfectly clean. I set out all of the ornaments and decorations on the dining room table. Sunday night after Thanksgiving we always glad to get home. We bath the kids early, put their new Christmas pj's on (one of Nana's newest traditions), listen to Christmas music, decorate the tree, drink hot chocolate, read the Christmas story from the bible and hang our stockings. It is so much fun and my favorite way to kick off the Christmas season. I really look forward to it and am always glad the "work" part of decorating is out of the way. And now I feel like all that preparation is worth it because....

Yesterday, Tucker asked me when Christmas started. I told him that we celebrate Christmas throughout the Christmas Season which begins right after Thanksgiving and lasts until Christmas day. He said, "No no mom - I mean when do we put the ornaments on the tree and wear our new pajamas?"

Let the holidays begin!!!
I would love to know about other traditions that other families have. I am always looking for new ideas.


Flower Mound Pumpkin Patch

If you have not been to the Flower Mound Pumpkin Patch, you should consider making a trip sometime. We have gone every year on Tucker's birthday. It started when Tucker was three. Having already spent and spent on the birthday party and gifts, we were looking for an inexpensive thing to do on Tucker's actual birthday. Thanks to my wonderful friend Camille, we found the Flower Mound Pumpkin Patch loaded with bounce houses, hayrides, a maze, lots of our favorite characters and great photo opportunities all free of charge. The day was such a success that it has become a tradition. This year Tucker's birthday fell on a Saturday and he wanted to go the pumpkin patch and have his birthday party there. (Elizabeth's birthday is the day before and she wanted to do whatever "my Tucka" was doing!) Although a much more crowded than years past because it was Saturday, the pumpkin patch was a great place to celebrate a fall birthday. Tucker and Elizabeth had a great time. They wanted to play dress up at their party so we passed out wings and tutu skirts to the girls and batman capes with a mask for the boys. All the kids looked so cute running around all dressed up. Thanks to everyone who could share this special day with us! Thanks to the people who run the Flower Mound Pumpkin Patch ...we had a great time!

PS - part of me thinks they are really crazy to run the pumpkin patch and charge nothing for the activities (they only charge if you want to buy a pumpkin) - I'm not sure I could ever host such an event!


Project Weekend

Last weekend James' parents came in and helped with some projects around the house. They did a great job repairing the ceiling (Elizabeth flushed half of a package of wipes down the upstairs potty after changing her baby's diaper thus creating a large hole in the kitchen ceiling). They also finished the plumbing repairs in the master bathroom. It was a great weekend and I really appreciate all of the hard work.

Also, James and I actually got to go on a date. This is a rare opportunity for us. We ate a great little Mexican food restaurant and went to watch his school's football game. I actually rode on his bike through Dallas. This was the scariest ride of my life. I never took physics in school and I wished I had. It is amazing how one can stay on those bikes in the wind at 60 mph. One day I might be able to ride that thing with my eyes open. Then I will able to write a bit more on the experience. For now I will say ... I lived through it.

And no there are no pictures of me on the bike.


Mrs. Witcher

Well , school is in full swing and Tucker is adjusting perfectly to his new class. I was nervous about everything and spent way too much time, money, energy..... getting everything together. That is what I do with my nervous energy:) But after finding the perfect nap mat, backpack, lunch box and first day of school outfit we were ready to go. I have spent weeks praying that Tucker would get a teacher who had a desire to know him and understand him. Mrs. Witcher was the answer I had hoped for! (There is another teacher in the room and we love her too!) After just two weeks of school, Tucker was talking about her constantly to me. Every school morning he wakes up and can't wait to go see her.

When I picked him up on Thursday and we were all standing at the door he says, "Mrs. Witcher, will you come over to my house after school today so you can see me in my batman costume? You can wear your costume if you want to and we can play in my Spiderman tent!" Mrs. Witcher says, "Tucker every time I think of batman I always think he looks just like you. Thanks for inviting me to your house." Then she gave me a wink.

Tonight at bed time he even added Mrs. Witcher to his usual prayer...

"Dear God, Thank you for mommy, daddy, Tucker, Elizabeth and Mrs. Witcher. Help us all to be safe and happy. Amen."

Glory to God in the highest and peace in mother's heart!!!



It seems like each birthday comes around faster and faster. It is hard to believe I am 33 this month. I have never really felt old before or even had that feeling where I was worried about getting older or dreading getting older. Mostly I have enjoyed each stage as it came. However, this birthday was different. I feel like I am definitely saying good bye to the "child - bearing" part of life and I am not sure I am completely ready to make that transition. I have already gotten rid of all of the baby equipment and most of my baby clothes, but the "I want another baby" feeling has never left.

Lately I have often been asked if James and I are planning to have a third baby. Some of the people who have asked know our whole story and some are just making conversation, either way the question stirs up a great amount of emotion in me. Part of me wants to correct them and say "You mean a fifth baby?" I always thought that at age 33 I would have had the four children I have always planned on having. I just never thought that after four pregnancies I would only have two children. Tucker and Elizabeth are completely wonderful and fulfilling - they bring joy to every day - the kind of joy that makes me want to have ten more kids. (Not really ten!!!) I know that if God does not give me anymore I will be completely filled up with the two I have. However, I just don't know if I am ready to let go of the idea that there might be one more in God's plan for me. My head tells me that the timing for a another is wrong and that it is time to move on from the baby stage. But my heart has all of the love and desire to hold one more - sometimes I wake up in the night and feel like I have lost something but I just don't know what it is and I just want to find it. I wonder if that feeling will ever go away.

I believe we are asked to live a life of faith - and right now I am trying not to live a life of fear. It is hard to decide what I am more afraid of ... being pregnant or not being pregnant.

Mostly, turing 33 has made me count my blessings. As I drove from Abilene to Arlington on Saturday - I couldn't stop myself from naming them one by one. Although I have no idea what the next year will hold and no idea what I want the next year to hold - I know I am happy to have such amazing people in my life now to take the journey with me.

Thanks to my family and friends for all the birthday wishes... I treasure them!


Game Day

Most mornings when I wake up Tucker's face is about 2 inches from mine and he is saying, "Mom, mom... will tuck my shirt in all the way in?" He is usually fully dressed in his t-ball uniform and wanting me to help him get the shirt and belt just so. He is very "just so" about the way he wears his uniform.

In his mind, the game is about to start and he is headed downstairs to our living room to take a few practice swings before his first at bat. I usually head downstairs (much too slowly for Tucker's taste) and try to find my way to some coffee. By the time I have stirred in the creamer, the game is in the third inning. He is 2 for 2, the bases are loaded, Sammy Sosa just hit nice single into right field and Tucker is about to hit his first grand slam for the day. What a day at ballpark. I begin to pull out a few things for breakfast as he slides into home plate (a basket of magazines) and the crowd goes wild (many magazines fall out of the basket and make lots of noise). The clock above the stove tells me it is 7:12am and I am debating on waking up Elizabeth.

I love Tucker's intensity. He lives life as if each day is game day. Each task gets the same amount of intensity and determination. (Unfortunately these characteristics still apply when he decides to have a fit.) For Tucker all things are purposeful and meaningful. I want to be more like him. I want to see daily tasks as part of a chance to be great.By the time Elizabeth gets downstairs Tucker has already set her pink ball, glove, and bat out for her. He greets her with a quick hug and then asks, "Elizabeth - so you remember how I showed you to play defense?"

Today when Tucker woke up I was already downstairs, my second cup of coffee in one hand and James' glove in the other. I was ready to win the World Series and then head out for the best
Target run of my life!

Thanks Tucker!


Personal Victory

Yesterday I experienced a very personal victory.

Two things I really love doing are cooking & baking and serving others. One would think that the best of both worlds would be combining the two. Not so much. For several years now I have been signing up and volunteering to take edible stuff to people whom need it and I have failed. Somehow the simplest of tasks have become large train wrecks. Sometimes I can even see the train coming and just can't get off the tracks. I have spent much mental energy trying to turn over a new leaf and keep simple tasks simple.

Yesterday I did it! I delivered three yummy pies and sugar cookies to a group of ladies in need. I successfully arrived at her house on time with the promised goods. I did not get pneumonia and bronchitis, no one projectile vomited orange stuff, no child pooped or peed their pants, nothing was burned so badly that is stunk up an entire church and the people receiving it threw it in the trash when they thought I was not looking, I did not loose my car keys or my cell phone, I did not get lost or forget my directions, I was not late because of traffic, and I even included sugar cookies for a party favor. They were beautiful.

The experience was so completely satisfying that I might be able to try it again. The best part is that I actually had fun making the pies. Thanks to my sisters for the moral support.

And yes, all of those things have actually happened to me while delivering or serving food to others!


Unexpected Generosity

Just when you least expect it, you find generosity from another human being.

One of the things I think is most difficult in the world of daily parenting activities is loading up to leave the house. Tucker is nearly trained and self sufficient. Elizabeth on the other hand is not. Just to run up to Michael's to grab a pie holder can become an ordeal of great proportion. The process of everyone dressed, gone to the potty (Elizabeth is potty training - so she tries to tee tee in the potty about 5 times before we leave the house), teeth brushed, shoes on, my purse, an extra outfit for Elizabeth, wipes and the coupon I am trying to take advantage of takes at least 20 minutes if there are not accidents or fusses between the kids. This morning went pretty smoothly and we were loaded in only 27 minutes. When I pull up to Michael's it is pouring rain. I pause to gather up coupon, purse, two snacks, Elizabeth's extra clothes and wipes when I notice my purse is a bit lite.

I remember now - had to get my wallet out to give something to the Farmer(my husband James) last night. My wallet is missing - no way to pay.

I sigh - I head home to get wallet. Elizabeth decides she needs to tinkle tinkle. We all unload and barley avoid an accident. I settle an argument between my children over who can jump the furthest and we are loading again to head to Michael's.

I pull up to Michael's and began to gather up my stuff. Your kidding me???? No wallet. I guess in the chaos of the potty incident I left the wallet at home again. I do find my checkbook at the bottom of my purse. I head into Michael's thinking that if they do not take my check then after I shop I could have them hold things at the front until I get back. We shop - the children do pretty well. The lady actually takes my check and we are headed home.

The kids are starving. I have already forgotten the wallet thing and am totally preoccupied with thoughts of things on my "to do" list. I tell the kids we can get tacos from Taco Bueno for lunch knowing that I have three free taco coupons. I order and my bill minus the coupons is 2.47$ When I pull up to pay I remember - oh yeah - I don't have my wallet. I feel so stupid. I just look at the lady - ready to give her back the cold diet coke I was already sipping. I apologize and explain that I don't have my wallet with me and I will be right back - I just live around the corner. And then comes the shocker - she said, "Here you go. Just take it any way and pay us another time.''

SO THANK YOU Taco Bueno girl for your well timed generosity. You have no idea how much it meant to me!


The "Mother-Wife"

Several weekends ago James and I spent some time with another couple (that shall remain nameless to protect the innocent). We had a wonderful time and enjoyed their company very much. However, throughout the weekend, I found myself quite annoyed by the "mothering" the wife did of the husband. Specifically the telling the husband to do "x" and then giving specific instructions on how "x" should be done. Every move he made was up for review. Her actions were not done out of malice or ill intent, but out of habit. His response didn't include anger or even contempt for her critique. Do not misunderstand...they seemed quite happy with each other; I was the one bothered by the whole thing.

Until... James and I went to order our usual Arby's for dinner before the Ranger game and to my surprise I told him exactly how to order. I even said, "Now tell her..."

OHHHH NOOOOOO! I am a "mother-wife"!!!!

I was shocked!!! Did I sound just like the "mother-wife" who had annoyed me so greatly? How could this be? I even went as far as to justify my instructions after I gave them. There I was becoming the woman I was so annoyed by just so he would not order curly fries.

I thought about this incident for days. How could I have talked to my husband (who by the way provides a wonderful life us) like he was four? When you are a mother 24/7 and you do not take much time to yourself, it is hard to stop the urge to mother someone. If I do not tell my son to wash his hands after he goes to the bathroom, he probably won't. If I tell my husband the same...it is time for a night off!

Being a wife and mother at the same time, all the time is not an easy task. Unfortunately it often leads to a women becoming a "mother-wife" instead of a mother and a wife.

"Dear God, give me the strength to be mother and to be a wife and the sanity to know the difference."


Softly Speaking

A few weeks ago a good friend of mine referred to me as "soft spoken". She meant this in a good way and has no idea that it is so stuck in my mind. She has not known me long enough to know that I, Sara Elizabeth Strader Isbell, have never been referred to as "soft spoken". Those who knew me as a child would probably describe me as "way too outspoken" or at least "never at a loss for words". I am so puzzled by this new description that I can't help but wonder if I have changed much over the years.

Has being a wife and a mother (two things I desparately love being) quieted some my own voice?
I don't really know the answer to this question and I don't really think all silence is negative. Maybe my new found desire to blog is a way to hear my own voice again.