Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Hooper Family

What can I say? The Hooper Family - they are so so so dear to me.

They are my husband's family. Technically they are my husband's family on his dad's side. My father-in-law, Roger, has one brother and a half sister. Between them there are 7 kids and 10 grandbabies.

What I love most about them is that they have loved this sheltered city girl from the minute they met me. These folks are country bred, still living and breathing the sweet country breeze, and yet they don't treat me like the foreigner I am. Not only have they embraced me, but they've opened my eyes to a different way of life, where slowin' down means savoring each moment and simplicity brings a greater appreciation of each opportunity.

Memorial Day weekend we traveled south for the annual Shrimp Boil at Matt's cousin's Scott's house. The first time I went to Scott's house we came home with one of Scott's dead birds - alive only minutes before we loaded up for home. Scott gave it to Matt so that Matt could train our new pup to fetch birds. It was a learning curve for me like no other. Not only was I learning that my sweet labrador puppy needed a freshly-whacked bird to fetch if he was gonna be a huntin' dog, but I was also learning that it wasn't uncommon to keep birds for the purpose of training dogs. Like raising a rat to feed a snake or keeping live crickets to feed a pet lizard, some folks keep birds as eventual bait for training dogs. And now our cooler full of Stella Artois had been overtaken by a very dead and bloody bird.

I remember driving home that night in disbelief. I was raised in the 'burbs, for goodness sakes. We lived on a cul-de-sac ruled by pages of zoning laws and building codes - uniform mailboxes, three-inch grass lawns, city-approved fencing, and absolutely no hunting.

Now I'm married to a man who moved a refrigerator-size gun safe into my home. There was a time when I celebrated seasons by shopping Banana Republic's new fall line. Now the seasons in my life are defined by doves and ducks and deer.

But here's a secret. And please don't tell my husband (because there's a gorgeous leather purse at BR that I've been drooling over), but I actually like my city girl meets country boy life. I like it a lot a lot a lot. I love that my husband taught me to shoot a gun in his parents backyard. I love that my kids are growing up surrounded by four-wheelers and above-ground pools. Even though I'm still learning to stomach some of the country life, I'm so thankful that my kids will have exposure to both the city and the country - making memories that I never had the opportunity to make.

Honestly, I didn't think I'd feel this way when I married Matt. I assumed our urban surroundings would gradually take their toll, pulling him farther away from his firm country roots. But God has shown me that He has no such plans. In fact, God has slowly tugged on my heart, revealing Himself to me in the most precious ways on my in-laws 400-acre property in a small town that the Hoopers have called home for well over a century.

Through my marriage, I have been given the blessing of experiencing a different culture. And it is an honor to watch as that culture seeps its way into my own, a merger were the dividing lines are blurring, creating a family that has a love for things both here and there.

For that I am so thankful.

I love this family.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Firefighter Party

Sweet Jake Ryan holds a special place in my heart. He is exactly 7 weeks younger than my firstborn, and there is no doubt that the two boys will forever be best buds. At only three years of age, they ask for the other constantly, and though they are still learning the simple rules of life - use manners, always share, don't hit - they learn together (often at the expense of the other), and it's a blessing to watch them explore the world side-by-side.

This year, the night before Jake's 3rd birthday and 3 days before his 3rd birthday party, my cousin, Jared (Jake's dad), ended up in the hospital undergoing an emergency surgery to fix (MAJOR) bleeding caused by a tonsillectomy. Jared & Lisa cancelled the party (understandably so!) but invited family and a couple close friends to celebrate Jake. Amidst all of the chaos, Lisa still managed to organize a few AWESOME activities for the kids: a fireman obstacle course (each child earned their own fire badge, minus Harper who refused to participate - learning to put on her shoes has taken over her life), an extinguish-the-fire game where the kids threw water balloons at a fire-stricken house drawn with chalk (genius!), and a visit from an actual firetruck and real live firemen (thank you, Washington Township!)

The kids were in HEAVEN. And though his birthday bash was cancelled, I think Jake knew no different. It was a beautiful evening and wonderful party, and we were thrilled to celebrate Henry's best bud.

We love you, Jake Ryan. Thank you for including us in your special day.