Friday, December 31, 2010

2011 Goals

I have never made a New Year's resolution, but I like goal-setting.  Here are my top to-do's for 2011.

Start running again - this time without injury.  Buy awesome running shoes if I have to.

Clean out every closet, cabinet, drawer and shelf; selling every unused item in a garage sale over spring break.  If we were sick of it 9 years ago, it is definitely out of fashion now!

Repaint the interior of the house.  Make the guys wear latex gloves if that's the only way to keep the walls clean.  Enforce the no-wall-climbing rule.  Spiderman does not live here.

Volunteer in each of the boy's classes regularly.

Show our appreciation to each of the boy's teachers.

Get completely plugged in and excited about ministry again.

Intentionally nourish relationships with friends and family.  Say no only when we absolutely must.

Love my husband and children with purpose and meaning.  Date.

Lead at least one support group for women recovering from sexual abuse.

Make myself available to speak to groups about the impact of sexual abuse on a survivor's life and the hope there is for miraculous healing and restoration.  Pursue youth and young adults.

Meet with trusted friends/associates in counseling, child abuse prevention/response, social work and education in order to figure out what I want to do when I grow up.

Be prayerful.

Go wherever God leads.

Enjoy the journey!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

I thought this was supposed to be a break?

We have run around quite a bit this week.  For the first time ever, we had gobs of Christmas gifts that just didn't work for one reason or another.  So, I had seven places to return to this week!  We did four on one day, two on another, and I have one remaining.  We have replaced some of the gifts, and taken store credit for others that we'll replace another time.  We've never returned a single Christmas gift before!

We've played a lot this week, and had a friend over this afternoon.  I think we might hit the World War I museum tomorrow, and possibly do a little ice skating if the weather cooperates.  We have plans with friends on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, and Zach also has an eye exam on Monday.  Then he goes back to school on Wednesday.  His break seems to have flown by.  No one has complained of boredom.  Zachary feels that he needs two more weeks off.

Luke goes back a week after Zach, and I go back the week after Luke.

I'd hoped to read for pleasure and clean my scrapbooking room over break.  Thankfully I still have almost three weeks remaining.  I need to get reading and lounging, but just can't resist the urge to socialize and play.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A great day for the museum

The kids and I are having a really great time, enjoying our Christmas break.  Today we went with friends to the art museum.  I was pleased to discover just how great the kids' museum behavior has gotten - soft voices, no running, no touching, standing back - they are finally giving the museum security staff's anxiety a rest! 


My girlfriend is a librarian at the museum.  She always comes down to show us around for a while.  Today we took her some cake!


The boys are really beginning to show an interest in the art - asking where things come from, how the paints were made, how old the art is, why the people were so much smaller 2,000 years ago, and of course... why the statues are so often naked.

As we were there today, I was reminded of my trip to the Louvre in Paris.  I remember so clearly this aspiring artist, with his easel and paints, painting what he was looking at inside the museum.  What confidence and ambition he must have had.  I often wonder what my children will grow up to be.  Will they be artists?  Will they even like art?  I often wonder... daydream... about what interests, talents, passions and gifts they will have.

Zach & Jackson Pollock

It's fun to daydream.


It's also fun to get burgers and a gigantic skyscraper milkshake with friends.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Another very merry Christmas

Gifts?  As the kids get older, Christmas gifts change.  No more bulky musical toys...  Now it's Lego's, Bionicles, Nerf guns, books, board games and Wii games. 

A White Christmas?  Last year we had something like 8" of snow begin falling on Christmas Eve.  This year we have not yet had enough snow to coat our grass with the thinnest layer...

Parties?  We had a lot of company to celebrate Christmas this year.  We had a party with two other families the Saturday after Thanksgiving, had my mom, sister and her family over on Dec. 22, and had our traditional time with my husband's family on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.  We had a wonderful time celebrating with so many loved ones.

Favorite moments?  Decorating the cake with Luke.  Bryan and Zach wrapping gifts together.  Christmas shopping - alone with Bryan - while the Millers kept the boys overnight.  The boys making crafts while singing Christmas carols.  Hearing Zachary sing "All I want for Cwissmas is my four fwont teeff" (exaggerating the missing-teeth-lisp).  Wrapping Angel Tree gifts with my women's Bible study.  Taking more than two hours to get through the Longview Lake lights with only laughter and singing to keep us entertained - no movies, no complaints.  Our better-than-Rockwell night.  The Christmas menu filled with recipes from friends.


The count-down to next Christmas?  Started at bedtime on Dec. 26th.

Saturday, December 25, 2010


I love Christmas Day.  We stay home and family pops in to visit us whenever it fits into their day.  Today, Bryan's dad was here by 8am.  We opened all of our gifts together, had breakfast, hung out for a while...and then he headed off to hang out at my sister-in-law's house.  While he was gone, my mother-in-law came by with Bryan's Granny.  I finished putting the kitchen back in order, got the lunch sides prepared, and then joined the rest of the family in the living room to play with the kids' new toys.  We shot each other with Nerf guns and assembled Lego's, chatted and joked around.  After a while, the ladies made their way down to Bryan's sister's, and his dad eventually made his way back up here for lunch, cake, and more playing...  This is the way I always imagined family would be.  Of course I love that on this day we celebrate the birth of a Savior, and I love that Savior with all my heart, but I also really love the way family feels on Christmas Day.  He has given me an incredible treasure in this family.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A blessed year

This year, there is no Christmas letter or seasonal family photo ready for mailing.  Having just finished my last final on Friday - and immersing myself immediately into Christmas shopping, cleaning, baking, party hosting and touring lights - I have not yet successfully switched back into non-tasking wife and mother.

You know, the one who would lovingly gather her family for a fun photo shoot (where no one raises their voice, cries, or refuses to participate) and then follow it up with an annual letter detailing everyone's accomplishments.

I have no idea where that woman is!

I do, however, have some thoughts on our year that I don't want to forget, so I'm going to attempt unwinding and reminiscing...

This year brought about changes and adventures that I never imagined.

Zachary is blossoming into quite a competitor.  He has loved soccer since the very first season, but this fall he has really wanted to learn and excel.  He is always kicking the ball around our living room, and watching YouTube videos to learn more "moves".  Of course he would like for his team to win more than they lose, but more than anything he cares about improving and doing his very best.  We are so proud of him!

Luke was once regularly referred to as strong willed or determined, but these days it's "self starter".  I never expected to say this....but he's an easy kid to have around!  (I think he kind of owes us this, after all those years of not-so-easy Luke.)  We don't have to nag, repeat or give specific instructions to Luke - he's easily motivated and quickly responsive.  He's also an excellent rule follower, making I said...very easy to have in class or over for a play date.  And, thankfully, he's still hysterically funny, ornery, creative and spirited!

Even though the economy is in the tank and Bryan's job is the type that sees a good deal of unemployment, I don't think we ever really expected that we would ever see a year long lay-off, but this year that's almost what we got!  Eleven months.  That's how long we went without a real paycheck.  I am so impressed that we didn't once lose our cool, and there was no marital strain or desperate worry - that is a testament to growth!  Our wonderful boys never once complained about not being able to buy something or go somewhere.  There were times that I semi-complained about not taking a vacation, but our children were amazingly content with the pools, parks, museums, play dates, and other free outings around town.  Even though we didn't travel this year, we found a different, special, kind of magic during this time of unemployment and shoestring budgets...  I have a husband - and my kids have a daddy - who is not above any kind of work that will help make ends meet for his family.  And, as it turns out, running a nighttime paper route frees a man up to spend all day, 7 days a week, with his family!  In those eleven months, our family spent more time together than many others will in an entire childhood.  We will forever cherish the time that we were able to spend together as a family this year.

Bryan's lay-off also led to amazing challenges and considerations that we'd never been open to before.  Bryan didn't really believe that he was qualified for any other job, and now he is leaving his options open for anything.  He has even wondered aloud, "Is there more to life than this?  Is there something else I should be doing?"  In the asking alone, my amazing husband is becoming even more amazing!  And I would never have considered a move before, but now I will go wherever we feel God is leading us.  We are finding that it is very freeing to say "You lead, I'll follow" than to dig our heels in and shout "OUR WAY ONLY!"  God is faithful; he leads.

And, of course, my return to school was completely unexpected.  I had to walk away from the sexual abuse recovery ministry at church for the semester, but found that God has an incredible ministry and countless lessons for me at school.  I was able to write or speak about sexual abuse in all five of my classes this semester (even PE Strategies!), and that is very exciting for me.  Next semester I will be taking a mass communications class which is taught by the person who oversees the school newspaper - I just realized that yesterday.  Just imagine...  Might I be able to write for the school paper?  Or will he teach me how to write better, reaching more people?  I am supposed to be preparing to be an elementary school teacher, but I keep finding that my classes speak to me about my ministry.  I don't know what all of this means, but I am so excited to see what God does with my life.

And, finally, one last amazing thing for the year came in the form of a LifeGroup.  We have been in groups off and on for the last seven years, but were not at all looking for a group when one found us.  The study focus was to "Live Like You're Dying"; living life on a mission.  I would say that I am really pretty good at that, but there is always room for growth...and grow we did!  I found that I'd become a little stale in some departments; losing traction and no longer moving forward...  We rediscovered our focus and passion for God's children, and are committed to filtering decisions through the right lens and not our own.  We have inked out goals for 2011 and we look forward to seeing how God brings it all together.

As always...  God has been incredibly generous and ever-present in 2010.  We praise Him for his goodness and mercy!

"I have come that they may have life and have it to the full."  John 10:10

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Christmas tradition

I can remember taking trips to see these lights when I was a kid; never missing a lighting ceremony as a teenager/young adult.  I even lived down here in college and could see these lights from my bedroom window.

I have always loved it, but I had no idea that this is special.  Not every American city has such a spectacular display or lighting tradition.  This is still hard for me to fathom.

Bryan is not at all a fan of crowds, or cold, or walking aimlessly, or shopping, or contrived traditions; however, he indulges me this every year.  And he lets me point out every house that I love and tell stories about any and everything that holds a special memory for me - these stories are not new to anyone.  This year, he stepped it way up - giving Norman Rockwell a run for his money.  He packed hot chocolate and fresh baked chocolate chip cookies.  We found a spot near a fountain and enjoyed our chocolately treats while listening to a high school band on one corner and a gentleman playing a tuba on the opposite corner.  We went into all sorts of shops, talked to complete strangers, and held hands a lot - often all four of us in one long line.


Thursday, November 25, 2010

Giving thanks

"Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus." ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

He's b-a-a-a-a-ck

....AT WORK!

After 11 1/2 months of unemployment, my union electrician returned to the ranks of the working today.

As I reflect over this last year, I am awed by my husband and our heavenly father, but I am not at all surprised.  God has generously and abundantly met our needs at every turn, and my husband has worked harder and physically sacrificed his body more this year than ever before.  All for substantially less pay, but for the only material things in life that really matter - the roof over our heads, clothing to wear, and food to keep our bodies healthy.  All the while, being an outstanding husband and father, coach extraordinaire, friend and neighbor.

To make ends meet, he's delivered the newspaper 7 days a week, in the middle of the night, regardless of weather, illness or injury.  Without complaint, I might add.  And, remarkably, with his sanity and knowledge of who and whose he is in tact!  All because he loves the boys and me.  God has been wonderfully generous to me in countless ways....but I am most blow away by the gift he's given me in Bryan.

I typically wander through life with an immensely grateful heart, but this week that grateful heart is bursting at the seams.  This is a happy Thanksgiving, indeed.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


“Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” ~ Elizabeth Stone

Truer words were never spoken.  

My sister-in-law shared this quote with me when I was pregnant with Zachary.  I thought I understood it at 7 months pregnant, and then I looked into my newborn child's eyes and had an even greater appreciation for the heart now beating outside my body.  And each time a new first arises, I feel it all over again.

Today's first is an after school function.  We have always been there to drop the kids off at school (and church, playdates, parties, etc.) and pick them back up.  Door-to-door basically.  Sure, we have shared carpooling with friends, but with each new carpooling scenario I feel a tinge of anxiety on the first day about the safety and whereabouts of my child.

Today...  It's not another hand-picked mom that I am trusting with my child.  I'm trusting my child.

He's got to get from point A to point B - inside the walls of the school - for an after school party.  We are trusting him to do this.  It really should be pretty simple, but I think I will be a little nervous until I see him after the party

What if he doesn't show up?  Wanders off?  Will anyone call us if he doesn't make it to the party?  Do they do a headcount?  Check names off a list?

I resisted the urge to email the party coordinator and tell her specifically how to keep my kid safe.  This is not her first rodeo and I can't be that mom.

We talked with Zachary about what we expect of him after school....and how we fully expect to see him immediately after the party.  I am sure he will do exactly as he should, but I can't help feeling as if my heart is beating outside my body today.

Praying today that our heavenly father protects this child, as he discovers the world on his own accord.  Not just today, but everyday.  After all, our purpose is not to raise a full-grown child, but to prepare an independent, confident, capable young man to stand on his own two feet and not forever need a hovering mother [or father].

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

I had a noodle date!

Did you read that post title in your best Po's Daddy's voice from Kung Fu Panda?  My kids will totally love and appreciate that title.  That is, assuming they read this blog...which Luke won't since he can't.  Can't read, that is.

Anyway...  I digress.

As I was on my way to pick Luke up from school today, I was trying to think of something special to do for lunch.  A picnic?  Meet a friend at Chic-fil-a?  Just come home and clean the inside of the van together?  (You know how kids love to help...and it was a beautiful day!)

As we were pulling away from school, I'd honestly decided to come home and clean the van.

Then...  My friend Sarah was waving us down.  She had a voucher for an entirely free lunch for two at Noodles & Company, but was unable to use it.  She wondered if Luke and I might like to go on a date.

The Chic-fil-a is just across the street from the new Noodles & Company, so I clearly had no aversion to the drive.

So...  We gladly accepted her kind offer and headed off for an afternoon date.  We arrived about an hour before our reservation, so we walked the mall.  We window shopped, tried on jewelry and admired handbags, laughed about oddly posed mannequins, played on the escalator, made new friends in the play area, declined a new cellular service, and even found twenty bucks!

Then we had lunch.  Yummy.  Free!

And after, we wandered over to see what all the fuss is about at the American Girl store.  I didn't even like dolls when I was a child, but I'd imagine that this store is a dream come true for many little girls.  Luke liked all the bank-breaking accessories - strollers, typewriter, dogs, trundle bed, the tepee, horses.  His favorite was the tree house.  Let this serve as a clue to not ever enter a Lego store.  I can only imagine...

It was a wonderful day.  Bryan got a huge kick out of me recently saying that I didn't see how anyone would ever want to have nine children.  I didn't mean it in any hateful way; I was merely meaning that I don't know how I could possibly get this sort of one-on-one time very often with a larger family -- and I just adore the precious occasions of "only you and me time" with our kids.

Thank you, Sarah, for sending Luke and me on a date.  I hope to one day be able to repay the favor!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

PE Calendar

Zach's PE teacher is a rock star.  She's so awesome that I'm thinking of double majoring - Elementary Education and Health and Physical Education.  Bryan will be thrilled to hear this.  Maybe I'm just happy and delirious and will wake up with a clear head (and only ONE major) in the morning.

She does a lot to teach the kids about nutrition and healthy eating.  Zach is frequently telling us which of our dinner items are fruits, veggies, whole grains...and of course the occasional "no food" like McDonald's french fries.  Thanks, Miss O.

But my favorite thing that she does is the monthly PE homework calendar.  Did you know that the surgeon general recommends an hour a day of physical activity for children pre-K through 12th grade?  With only 7 hours in a school day, it is easy to see how this is not doable within the confines of the school curriculum.  So, Miss O. sends home the calendar each month and we do physical activity as a family just about every night.  This month the activities range from bouncing on a trampoline for 20 minutes, to playing hopscotch, to playing throw and go (Zach's creation), to riding your bike for 30 minutes, to taking your dog for a walk.  Can you tell that she let the kids make activity contributions this month?  Last month we played capture the flag and freeze tag and rolled down Jared and Melissa's hill into our yard.  I love how the activities encourage not only Zachary to get active, but our entire family.  And I love that we are spending this time together.

The last time I played hopscotch was on my elementary school playground with my favorite little girlfriends.  And capture the flag and freeze tag were fun games to play with neighborhood kids when I was growing up.  It is so fun to relive those games now with our children.  I'm watching that calendar for kick the can!!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Coffee moms

Every morning, on the way to drop Zach off at school, I pass what I refer to as the "Coffee Moms Club".  At 8:35 every weekday morning, this group of women can be found at the end of a driveway, still in their jammies, standing around, drinking coffee together.  I assume that they have just gotten their school kids off for the day.  Their younger children play together as the moms talk.  When I drive back by - less than ten minutes later - the club has adjourned.  Garage doors are shut.  Everyone has presumably returned into the comfort of their homes.

I love seeing them every morning.  I have no idea who they are - I've never even come close enough to look at their faces.  But, from a distance, they appear to be good friends who enjoy starting their day off with one another.

They remind me of my friends.  Those women who have built me up over the years...  Praying for me.  Encouraging me.  Helping to form me into the woman I am today. 

With such a busy school schedule right now, there is very little time to get together with girlfriends.  But every single morning I think of them and praise God for the way they've blessed my life.

He can tie!


Tuesday, November 9, 2010


Lately I have been thinking about the influence parents have on their children's lives.  A parent's influence is either for the betterment or destruction of a child; it is generally not neutral.  I was shattered by my parents.

But God took the pieces of my shattered self and put me back together; creating an incredible, one-of-a-kind, purposeful mosaic.  As only God can.

Remember when we thought Luke might have had cancer last summer?  In that first week, I shook my finger at God.  I was angry and I told him as much.  I said things along the lines of:  "I've given you all of me. I endured years of abuse at the hands of the people who were supposed to love me most, I've trusted you in my recovery, and I've committed to giving my adult life to ministering to the hearts of abuse survivors for your glory.  I forbid you to place a minute of Luke's life in discomfort or suffering!"  As a mom, it was unthinkable for my child to undergo a single day of cancer treatment.  I was territorial.  Forbidding God!

Never mind that God is the Father of all creation.  That Luke is actually God's and not mine.

In that moment, I was throwing my brokenness at God and claiming that it was sufficient to cover my entire family of four!

As I look at it today, I see the sillyness (and hypocrisy) of my position.  God restored twenty-seven years of dysfunction, brokenness, and sin in my life.  Surely, if Luke had had cancer, God would have used it for his glory as well.  He is trustworthy and ever-present.  God is the only thing that can sufficiently triumph over tragedy.

Earthly parents are in a powerful position.  It is my prayer that parents everywhere would opt to build young people rather than end up with grown-ups in need of restoration...  But, as long as we have the freedom of choice, there will be those who make the wrong choices.

I praise God for his infinite love, forgiveness, grace, mercy, patience, healing and comfort.  God has healed my heart - and mine is not a unique story.  He is in the business of healing, loving, guiding and providing.  For that, I am immensely grateful and humbled.  He takes the wrecks that people have created and turns them into his beautiful masterpieces...and calls us his children.

"God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble." Psalm 46:1

"He renews my strength.  He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name." Psalm 23:3

"The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed." Psalm 34:18

Monday, November 8, 2010


On Sunday morning, October 31, I  checked Facebook as usual.  One of my friends had written "Can't wait to get through this day and move on to the real holidays."

While I appreciate her point, I am feeling more and more each year that Halloween is a real holiday.  Not the gory part,  but get this...  We spend the "real" holidays - Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter - with our families.  There is not enough time to fit in parties with all of our friends, and certainly not an entire neighborhood of acquaintances and school families whom we really like and would enjoy getting to know better.

Halloween has become that time for us.  And - bonus - the kids get to play dress up and parade around the neighborhood, bumping into their buddies at each stop, collecting chocolate.  All while Mom and Dad make small talk with parents manning the doors or taking kids out for this one night of costumes-friends-and-candy bliss.  They love it.  We love it.

Our Halloween tradition for eight years has been to go across the street for Jim and Diane's annual chili dinner party.  We always arrive late, as we've still got little ones to take door-to-door and everyone else's kids are wrapping up high school (if not already all grown up).  These past two years we have added a stop next door, for Jared and Melissa's annual Halloween party.  At the party next door, they allowed Zach to judge a "best dressed" contest and they had goodie bags for the few children in attendance.  Across the street, after trick-or-treating what felt like forever, we collapsed and allowed Diane to feed us.  Zach fell asleep in the chair in their living room.  It's like home over there.

We've come to really love Halloween.  It is certainly not a holiday celebrating our risen savior or giving thanks for the countless blessings poured out on us by Him,  but is such a special time of fellowship for our community of friends and neighbors.