Neighbors: Back-To-School Ice Cream Social Planning

You know how I said I needed to get involved again with my neighbor project? Here’s my story about how I’m planning to do just that – although it had a tough beginning, as they all do, hurdles to overcome, walls that get in the way as if someone is out there to prevent us from doing and glorifying God by putting his word into action.

Our church, since we’ve been attending there almost seven years and probably longer, has always done a back-to-school ice cream social to get kids ready and thinking about the new school year. Since we’ve never had kids school-age before, this event has been somewhat of a mystery, but I believe in the past they have sorted donated school supplies for backpacks they intended to take to local schools for students who were less fortunate. Therefore, the ice cream social has always been a staple.

This year, however, our church is hosting a concert for the Grammy winning, The Okee Dokee Brothers instead of the traditional ice cream soirée. In a moment of stepping out of the boat-ness, I volunteered to host the usual ice-cream social at our house. However, my girl-scout-badge-worthy volunteerism was quickly squashed when our children’s minister brought up a crucial piece of information: “did you know your husband volunteered to do ice cream after the concert?”

Wow, how embarrassing! So much for touting “communication” as a skill in our marriage! Okay, so I couldn’t do the social for the church. There was always small group. But then I communicated with my husband. “Yeah, small group is going to do ice cream as our outreach project,” he said.

“Grrrrrrrrrr,” I growled a little too loudly.

“What’d you say?”

“Great!” I smiled.

[So, I have this idea; I want to do a back-to-school ice cream social and it’s already going on at church after the okee dokee brothers concert’] I texted my pal in my small group, [‘so do I ask my neighbors to that one, or ask small group to help another one with my neighbors and I, or put my big girl panties on and host one on my own?]

her text [Oh, big girl panties, for sure]

I knew that’s what she was going to say. As soon as I wrote “big girl panties,” I knew that was what I was going to have to do. It was like God was handing me my own pair of shining, white Hanes, coming with the clouds of heaven, singing Big Girls Don’t Cry, but with harps and doves fluttering out around.

Now came the exciting part, the part I was good at really, the planning part. First, the reconnaissance part: counting houses. You never know many houses have been sold/resold/built/etc. In fact, three houses had been built since the Egg Hunt. I know it sounds crazy, but to make sure my count is accurate, I’ve taken the kids outside a lot more. I want to be sure that I have the right amount of invitations. I don’t want to be caught in that moment of putting invitations in mailboxes and then realize that I’m short and that neighbor I’m short for ends up coming out. Maybe he or she wouldn’t really care, but maybe he or she would – maybe thinks “she didn’t do her recon well!”

After recon, is the construction of the invitations. I am definitely not the most artistic, so I rely on stickers and pseudo-cheerleader writing from 1999. I am most proud of my twisted sense of humor. Please check out my fancy-schmancy examples below.

Invitations Pre-Artistic Flair

Invitations Pre-Artistic Flair

Post 1999 Pseudo-Cheerleader Flair

Post 1999 Pseudo-Cheerleader Flair

Hopefully, people also read the FAQs.

Hopefully, people also read the FAQs.

Then it is time to rinse and repeat. After I wrote the first four of these I put off the writing of the other twenty for almost two weeks. It was really hard putting my hand to the test of that pain. It’s like “Hey, guess what hand? Today, we’re going to do something that hurts as soon as you start and hurts for two whole hours! How does that sound!?!”

I did finish the invitations today though. How? Tomorrow my daughter will be helping me pass them out and it is the only day it will be just her and I before the day of the event so I had to get them done.

So now we are back to the waiting period of “Will we get responses? Will people bother to come? Will people remember to come? Will people care to come? Blah, blah, blab!” Pray for my/our sanity! Thanks!

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Quick Update on my Neighbor Project…

My goal for next week was to reach out to my neighbors in a new and more frightening (for me) way, going beyond my Christmas gifts from my December endeavor, but then I realized that I had – eeek – three days to plan whatever that was going to be.  Then, while dreadingly thinking of the supposed garage sale I could put on to greet my neighbors as they perused my unwanted items and my three children terrorized them in return, I had a glimmer of thought: “why don’t I just give myself more time?”  It seems like I’m dodging my intended mission.  Yet, I don’t think I really am.  Instead, I – with the help of my church small group and awesome husband- am going to put on an Easter Egg Hunt in my neighborhood with my yard and the grassy place across the street serving as Grand Central Station for Easter camaraderie and the “neighbor (and hopefully their children) collector.”  I’m so excited about this idea, I can’t stand it.  I’m ready to make cutesy, Pinterest-inspired invitations and buy a huge bag of gleaming, plastic eggs to fill with stickers and non-melting candy.  Mostly, I’m excited about seeing my neighbors outside of their homes and the potential fellowship that will ensue.  I’m an introvert by nature, but there is something about the possibility of making new friends in Jesus’s name that just gets me hyped!  Prayer for my – our – event would so be appreciated!!

‘Tis the Season to Love My Neighbors: Part Three

Neighbor gifts

The first house I lingered…second house, nobody was home…the third house, I caught him at his mailbox….the fourth house was warm and responsive….the fifth house – they were just perplexed…the sixth house was conversational…the seventh house, I was interrupting, but they were still gracious.

Thus began my delivery of my “neighbor gifts.”  My two oldest children tagged along and each had her and his job.  My daughter was the gift-handing-out helper and my son was the doorbell helper, at least when he could reach it!  Beforehand, I psyched up the kids to get them ready to give out our presents.  I coached them to sing out “Merry Christmas” when the neighbor opened his or her door.  This worked only after my daughter warmed up to the experience and pulled her head away from its seemingly permanent spot of her cheek to my rear cheek.

Once we passed the first eight houses (number eight was another ding-dong reverberating through empty halls), we moved on to the other street on which our house resides.  It was upon crossing this threshold that I realized I had counted two less than what I needed to drop off at all the houses! Unbeknown to me, new neighbors had bought the house that was literally finished that week – and they were moving in that day.  I definitely couldn’t be passing out gifts to each house and not stop there; they could be watching me and seeing me pass their house with nothing just didn’t seem, for lack of a better word, “neighborly”.  I sweated my deficient planning as the kids skipped along to the next house.

Two sweet kids answered the door at number nine on our stop.  At the previous empty houses, I had left the baggies on their doorsteps.  At house number ten, I had just seen its occupants drive away and knew they weren’t home.  I have also blogged about getting to know this neighbor before and our long get-to-know-you.  I decided I would come back if I had enough.  The next house, eleven, scared my kids into number twelve’s yard; when my son pushed the doorbell a Labrador, who looked as if it was going to scratch the glass out of the windows when it jumped on them, ferociously barked – and I just decided not to leave anything there.  It probably set us back another few years into getting a dog, so we’re even.

I loved coming to house number twelve.  This is the house of my neighbor who has children at the same school for which I work.  My daughter and one of the children are in the same class.  The children answered the door, and you would have thought we were Santa to the little boy in my daughter’s class.  He was talking so fast about how happy he was to see Lexi and how much he wanted to come play outside with her, but couldn’t.  It definitely made the lingering too long at house number one, perplexed looks at number six, and the vicious dog at number eleven, all worth the entire experience.

We moved on to number thirteen, which I could tell was a dud from the street.  All the windows were dark, and so again, I cheated and said I would come back if I had enough left.  From the outside, number fourteen looked like at least four, licensed drivers were home, but no one answered – and I wondered if they were like me, who pretends that no one is home if I don’t want to answer the door.  My daughter was one step ahead of me and placed a gift at their door.  I didn’t want to confuse her more by implementing my “come back if we have enough” rules, and let it slide.   At house number fifteen we were greeted by a young woman who was friendly and thanked us for braving the neighborhood.  She had children, but didn’t say how old.  I’d guess they were really young.  We finally came upon the brand new neighbors.  The man was pulling out in his truck and had curiously eyed my gift basket, so I approached him at his car window.  It was really awkward, and I felt like a fool, but I welcomed him and his family to the neighborhood and we chatted about how quickly they had moved in to the home.  Even before its completion, they had a contract on the house.  I hope my gift giving might have cemented their love of our little neighborhood.

The next two houses didn’t answer, which helped because I was down to my last two gifts.  The last house was probably the most gregarious and loquacious.  She introduced herself, her soon-to-be husband, and her teenage daughter, who all came to the door.  We talked about how they had met my husband – no news flash here – and also wanted to get out around our streets and really get to know everyone.  By this time, my children were touching all of her Christmas decorations – which look amazing – and I was able to really open up and explain myself and my mission to my neighbors.  Warmly they congratulated me on getting outside and braving the houses with unknown entities behind locked doors.  They encouraged me to get out more, and thanked me for the gift before we departed.

What an experience! I completed my tour and was able to remember some names as well!  The best part was seeing how excited my kids were to complete our mission.  I think a “block-party” may be my next project once it really warms up and all our kids can be outside.  I’m excited for the future and what God will do through me as I reach out.

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A couple of days after, I received a package of Chex mix with a Christmas card from one of the houses where people weren’t home!

Neighbors: My Children

As we prepare for our Thanksgiving holidays with family five hours north of us, I’m reminded of needing to take special care of my children, my little live-in neighbors.  You see, I know the upcoming drive is going to be rough.  They’re going to want to get out of their carseats and they’re going to scream when we don’t let them.  They’re going to need to go to the bathroom fifty times and we’re going to have to stop each time if we want to save the upholstery in our car.  They’re going to fight because, “Emry touched my foot!” or “Lexi said I was a bother, not a brother!”  The baby is just going to scream, because she does that randomly when you least expect it.  This drive is  going to test my mothering skills and my ability to stay calm – which is a feat in itself.

In preparation for our five hour drive, I’ve spent a whole day listening to Christian music, especially my current favorite, “Lead Me” by Sanctus Real.  The lyric, “so Father give me the strength, to be everything I’m called to be, oh Father show me the way to lead them, won’t you lead me?” is especially pertinent.  Beyond the five hour drive, though, I pray this line to help me be a leader in my house to my little live-in neighbors.  I know that I can do nothing without God’s help.

This post is short, but I wanted to touch a bit on something in preparation of a day in which we talk about everything for which we are thankful.  I’m not a “day 1, day 2, day 3: I’m thankful for” fb, twitter, blog poster.”  I’m thankful for the air in my lungs, a new day to experience, my husband, my children, my parents, my sister, and my friends.  I’m thankful that I get to hear screaming and fighting on the way to visit family, because others have lost these noises and would give anything to have them back.  I’m thankful for my readers and those of you who support me.  Most of all, I’m thankful to be one of Christ’s own.

May God bless you in this time of thankfulness!

Neighbors: Follow Through

I’ve had two successes with my neighbor project since my last post, but I’m hesitant to blog about them.  I don’t want to get to that point where I start to believe that my success has been all me, and I don’t want my readers to believe that about me either.  However, I still would like to share my experiences.

About a week ago, my husband and I were outside with all our kids, enjoying the sunshine and semi-cool weather (it was probably 90 degrees, but in Texas that is cool).  There were two little kids, a girl and a boy, that looked like they were my son’s age.  My husband wandered up the street and began talking to their mom.  I don’t know how he does it – no two minute argument with himself about whether he should go up there and introduce himself – no, he just goes.  Anyway, since he self-initiated, I took it as my opportunity to introduce myself to someone else on our street and as an opportunity to have some material to talk about later!  She was originally from the area, had moved away, and then came back because of the school district – the same reason we moved here; it is highly recognized.  Her children were three year old twins; like I had guessed, the same age as my son.  Yes, I had the previous excitement as I had had before – envisions of birthday parties, same game events to attend, maybe a prom date in my son’s future.  We had a great introductory talk and commiserated about the sugar ants that invade our houses when it is so dry outside.  Our kids played awhile, and then we went our separate ways.  It was so easy, but of course, my husband helped.

I’m starting to see a new confidence about myself evolve.  However, as it does, I’m also starting to be pressed about the follow-through part of introducing yourself to your neighbors.  You can’t build relationships from introductions.  You have to go back.  I’m definitely feeling God’s pressing for me to go back, but what do I do?  Ask to borrow some sugar? Take people their mail?  Do I have to meet all of my neighbors on my street before I start my follow-throughs?  Any advice would be greatly appreciated…

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My second success wasn’t towards a physical neighbor, but rather a random person I met at a playground, so a ‘biblical neighbor’ I will call her.  It was a fellowship night for our small group at church, and we decided to have lunch after church at a local park.  Of course, my son didn’t want to eat – there’s just something about a chance to swing and play that makes a hunger ache not so apparent for kids.  As I ate, I carefully watched him, because I’m just that neurotic.  He had instantly made a friend, because he just talks to anyone, another reason I have to neurotically watch him.  At one point I turned around, and he had begged a woman to put him in a toddler swing and push him.  I could feel my two minute argument with myself beginning:

“go over there and talk to her.”

“No, butt out, she’ll think I’m weird.”

“You could just thank her for pushing your kid.”

“Yeah, I guess, I probably should, but then what do I say?”

Loudly, I said, “oh man, Emry just made that lady push him.”

God replied in the voice of my friend, “well, there’s your opportunity.”

“Grrr,” I thought.  “I’m really going to have to do this, aren’t I?”  Sheepishly, I got up and headed that way.  I stepped next to her and took over and said, “thank you for pushing him, he’s relentless.”  She nodded back to me, but didn’t say much more.  We stood there for several minutes, pushing our kids in silence.  “Think Kristel; think of something, anything to say.”

“How old is your son?” I said.

“Oh, he not my son, he my grandson,” she said in broken English.  The woman looked my age, so I was quite shocked.

“Oh, wow” I said, “you look like his mom.”

She smiled and nodded again.  Why did I feel like she didn’t know much English?  Either that or she was really shy, like me.  Then she spoke to her grandson…in Spanish.  ‘Okay, Kristel, you’ve been preparing for this – you’ve written before about “quiero practicar mi Español contigo” – this is your opportunity to do it – hacerlo’.  But I was stuck, what do I say?  I’ve already thanked her for pushing my son, and I inquired about her a bit…what more can I say to this woman whom I’m awkwardly staring at as she pushes her grandson in his swing.  If I don’t say something soon, she’s going to think I’m a freak.  My eyes are sweating as my brain runs around in my head, searching the archives for my conversation topics I can talk about in Spanish.

Finally, “conozco Español un poco.  Necessito praticarlo.”

“Si,” she said.

‘Great, I’ve made a fool of myself; I mispronounced everything I was trying to say.’  I tried to recover.  “Como se dice, “grandson” in Español?” I asked her.

“Nieto,” she said.

“Nieto,” I repeated.  She smiled.  So she either thought, ‘yay, this person is trying to speak Spanish, or LOL, this person is trying to speak Spanish’.   “Y, nieto por ella es ‘nieta?’” I continued.

She confirmed this with a nod.  Then she asked me something really fast, and honest to God, I have no idea what it was.  I nodded back, and for all I know I just said I was King Kong and was breeding baby King Kongs to take over the world.  We pushed the kids some more, and sensing that our conversation might be ending, I said, “gracias por hablando conmigo,” not really remembering if that was correct verbiage or not.  Hopefully she knew what I meant.  I gathered my kids and headed back to excitedly tell my small group my conversation.

I admit that I felt like I should have said something about Jesuschristo.  After I reported my conversation, I started to feel a bit defeated, because I hadn’t used the opportunity to share my experience with God; just to practice my Spanish.  I try to remind myself that it was obeying that made the effort successful.  I won’t ever know if our conversation meant anything to her, but rarely do we ever know the repercussions of our actions towards others.  I hope that the fact that I tried was good enough.  I guess it will all depend on if when the next opportunity comes, that I follow-through.

 

Neighbors: Those Kids

A year ago, I was the neighbor who seemed to be in-training for the Curmudgeon of the Neighborhood title.  I was annoyed when the kids in the area screamed too loudly outside and continuously trekked through our yard as if it was a public sidewalk.  When I came home from a long day, I would grate my teeth and lower my countenance, glaring at the children who were using our driveway as a bike ramp.  On the off chance that I was outside and I caught a midget midway committing any of the aforementioned acts, I would strictly put them in their places, a failed method to teach them respect of others’ property.  After one such attempt, we had black, bike tire marks all over our driveway, while we were also trying to sell our house.  A year ago, the children in our neighborhood were all named Dennis the Menace and I was the female version of Mr. Wilson.

Now that my “Meet the Neighborhood” project has been underway, I’ve attempted to lighten my approach towards these wee folks.  These things they do are still annoying; I’ve just decided to stop harshly reacting to them.

In effort to help my children develop a positive outlook on the neighborhood kids, and form some relationships too, I took them outside this past Saturday to ride their scooters.  Shortly after we ventured outside, a neighbor I haven’t introduced myself to yet came outside with her girls.  I kindly waved to her and watched her daughters race past my kids and I on their bikes.  She was smoking, and while it doesn’t bother me to be around it per se, I just didn’t want to interrupt her smoke break.  Instead, I sat on my driveway and watched all of the kids go around and around.

Eventually, the oldest of the girls came to me and started asking me questions about my kids.  I, in return, asked her about her family and learned that her step-sister was five, Lexi’s age.  I could already envision the summertime hangouts and the girls going to the same school next year.  Possibly a too-soon-to-be-thinking-about-these-things scenario, but I did nonetheless.

It was my first, positive experience with the neighborhood kids and when we finally returned inside, I felt good about myself.  I could start peeling away the “Witch on the Corner” or “Boo Radley-down-the-street” layers that had built up since we’d moved into this area four years ago.  It’s one step in the right direction and an additional step as I dare to go into zones that were so dangerous as I perceived before.

Neighbors Part II

I can write a great thank-you note.  I remember all the compliments I received after I sent out the bizillionth wedding gift thank-you notes and each one for all three baby showers.  Everyone told me that they were so personalized.  I thought I was just writing – how hard is it really to say “thanks for _______.  I plan to use it for __________.  I really appreciate your thoughtfulness” ?- but these compliments bolstered my confidence in this skill.  While working on Beth Moore’s James bible study, I have been thinking a lot more about ways I can use my skills in the church.  It occured to me that I could probably use this note-writing skill to reach those on the prayer list.  I could probably also use it to let all members (whether I know them or not) know that I was thinking of them.  It seems a bit trivial that I am just now realizing this knowing that the “card-writing” ministry has been pretty steady at my church and people’s names and addresses are usually put on the prayer list so you can send them cards. How is it just now dawning on me that I could use my writing skills for these ministries?  Regardless, this thought also led me to another about my neigbors.

My neighbors sort of know what I look like, probably little of what my kids look like, and mostly what my husband looks like.  What if I combined all of us in a family photo, stuck it on a card that could be made by shutterfly.com or tinyprints.com (I have discounts for both), and a nice introductory note written inside?  Why didn’t I think of this before!  It serves the purpose to introduce myself and my family to our neighbors, but it also is a baby step towards my larger goal!

My next question for anyone reading this is: am I just trying to avoid geting out on my street to meet my neighbors in person?  Image