Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Books, books, and more books

I took Children's Literature last semester.  The class should have come with a disclaimer:  Warning.  I will probably change you.  

It did.

I don't remember ever seeing a picture book as young child.  In fact, the first book I remember reading was Are You There God?  It's Me, Margaret.  I was in the 4th grade, and the book was recommended after the movie that 4th grade girls everywhere are shown in order to explain their impending maturation.  In 6th grade, as my own parents were divorcing, my teacher recommended It's Not the End of the World.  These are the only books I remember reading prior to age 20.  (I glanced through Cliffs Notes of required reading in high school.)  When I was twenty, I read the Pelican Brief, and that was only because I was bored stiff at work and someone had left the book lying around.  I enjoyed the book, and subsequently read all of John Grisham's other legal thrillers.

My reading in the last nine years has been almost exclusively Christian stuff - and most of that has been for the sole purpose of edification and spiritual growth.  There's absolutely nothing wrong with that, but I've come to the conclusion that there's much more to reading than just learning.

My Children's Lit class changed me.  First of all - I discovered illustrations.  In all the years that I've been reading to my kids, I've focused solely on the words.  Now I'm obsessed with beautiful books and pictures.  In kids' books, the pictures tell half the story!  Note to self - stop and smell the roses ... er, look at the pictures.

And fiction is delicious!  Historic fiction remains a favorite, as I can't help but love a book that draws on history and truth and teaches valuable lessons ... but fantasy is kinda fun too.  (I'm coming around...  "Kinda fun" is huge progress for a serious, no-nonsense, realistic person like myself.)

As soon as the semester finished, I'd committed myself to reading some classics.  Somehow it feels like I simply haven't lived if I don't know the first thing about Jane Eyre, The Great Gatsby, Catcher in the Rye, and the like...

I started with my friend Cori's recommendation - To Kill a Mockingbird.  Wow.  It was LONG ... compared with the 30+ children's books I spent the last 16 weeks reading!  During the first half of the book, I kept thinking that it was good but would it ever get to the point?  But the second half was riveting and I couldn't put it down, and I couldn't help but smile every time it tied back to an "unnecessary detail" provided in the first half.  Harper Lee, you outdid yourself.  What a remarkable story.  And, Cori, you should have named one of your KIDS after Atticus ... not just your Elf on the Shelf!  What a man.

I'm headed out on a road trip to see cousins tomorrow...  I will have at least ten hours of time in the car alone, and I'm going armed with two audio books - A Raisin in the Sun and Anne Frank Remembered.  I simply cannot wait to "read" while driving.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Time with family...

Bryan and I still tend to live like the "kids" of the family...  Other than our kids' birthdays, we haven't really hosted much.  A couple of years ago, we did host Christmas, but that was a last minute change due to severe weather and a hospitalization.  We have never hosted either of our entire extended families for anything...

But, my Aunt Janelle and cousin Alex were visiting from England this weekend, so we invited all of my mom's siblings and their families over.  Six siblings, three sisters-in-law, 14 kids between them (plus all of their spouses), and 14 grandkids between them.  Not one family was able to get all of their kids here, so we ended up with about half of the entire gang.  Wonderful memories were made...  Crazy fun.  In some cases, the last visit was 15+ years ago.

Such a delightful reunion weekend.


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

I wrecked my car

Uh huh.  I've had the van for about six weeks, and I've already wrecked it.  It was raining.  I was hurrying.  I was anxious ... carrying on about how "we are going to be late!" and I hate to be late.

As I was trying to get out the door with two kids - each going in different directions, at the exact same time, with only one parent to make it all happen - I asked the kids if they'd had lunch.  At 12:30pm.  Much to my disappointment, they hadn't even had breakfast!

So, despite the fact that I was already agonizing over our lateness (and, to be honest, if traffic was fine, we were actually ahead of schedule), I headed to McDonald's to grab some drive thru burgers and fries.  Got the junk food.  Began handing it out...  I was approaching my right-hand turn at the light.  Second in line.  The car in front of me inched out, and I inched forward behind her.  When I looked to my left at oncoming traffic, I rolled right into the woman in front of me.


Praise God that the woman I crashed into was very nice.  And no one was hurt.  And the kids weren't even scared.  The damage to the cars was such that we could both drive away without even much of a delay. 

In that moment though, what had been becoming pretty crystal clear was made absolutely clear.  My family needs to slow down.

The ESU program I'd planned to enter next fall is evenings only, Monday through Thursday, six hours per night, all on-campus.  And it turns out that Bryan is working during the exact same time I'd have to be in class.  Could we line up sitters?  Get the grandparents to pitch in?  But it's for an entire year...  Any talk of quitting ended with the same, "We'll make it work.  It WILL work."  But I didn't feel any peace about it at all.

Then I wrecked my car.  Rushing around.  Not entirely transitioned into our family's new normal; but, more than anything, really trying to ignore the harsh reality that something really great has got to give.

As I heard the crunch of our two vehicles colliding, it was as if some heavy vault door slammed shut on our family's master plan.  The one and only right choice was glaringly obvious.  I will finish the two online courses I have left at the community college, but everything beyond that is on hold.

As we came to terms with this decision, Bryan and I were reminded of just how perfectly the classes I've taken in the last three semesters have served to equip me as a mother and as a Writing and Public Speaking teacher at Mighty Oaks.  And how my job at Mighty Oaks fits so beautifully with our family life.  Maybe this is what God had in mind when He paved the way for me to return to school last year.  Or maybe we're just moving into a different season of waiting...  Either way, we're hoping and praying that it will not take another car accident to move us to surrender to God's perfect plan.

Such stubborn people, sometimes...

"'For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity, to give you a future and a hope.  Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.'"  Jeremiah 29:11-13 NASB

Friday, December 2, 2011


Zach is my emotional twin.  He's very sensitive, is acutely aware of others' feelings, is immensely compassionate, and generally experiences life in a very deep and meaningful way.  But, he also thinks about things, sometimes internalizes what he sees and hears, and often tries putting two and two together in an effort to figure out how people feel about him based on things they say about others.

It can be torture to operate this way.

On one hand, I think it's the most amazing, fulfilling way to live .... vividly aware of others and intentionally trying to impact the world in a positive way.  But it sure stinks to have those less-secure moments when you feel like you're on the outside looking in.  When I see my kid feeling that way, I momentarily wish he could be completely oblivious to matters of the heart. 

But, in all honesty, I wouldn't change our wiring for anything in the world.  We are who and how we are, and God made us this way for a purpose.

But, somehow, despite that fact that Zach's heart and mind operate the same way mine do, I do not always notice right away when my guy is having a hard time.  I get so busy, so distracted with all of our to-do's, that I don't hear the tone in his voice or see the pain in his eyes.  (And when that happens, I praise God that I am not alone in this thing called parenting.  My husband is great at catching what I miss.)

I'm so grateful for nights like tonight.  Nights where Luke had a soccer game scheduled, but the other team forfeited (in advance), so our team scrimmaged instead.  Since it wasn't a big game night, all the dads brought their sons while the moms and other siblings stayed home.  Then the dads stood close to the glass ... leaving Zach and me alone in the stands.  For 40 minutes, we sat there side-by-side, at times holding hands, talking non-stop as he shared his heart.  (When I called it a "date" he blushed and said that was embarrassing.  When did that happen?)  I learned so much about him, and feel so much more equipped right now to help guide him as he matures and processes through life.

My mother's heart needed tonight, as I thought I was going to throw up just thinking (okay, WORRYING) about him last night.  Thank you, God, for quiet moments of stillness - in an indoor soccer complex - to sit and talk with my young man.  What a blessing to know his heart.  And what a blessing to be his mother.  I still can't believe you thought enough of ME to entrust these boys into my care.

I'm blown away...

Monday, November 28, 2011

A magical walk

On Friday night, the kids and I went with Grandpa to a Luminary Walk.  We were actually supposed to go with my brother, but he ended up having to work at the last minute.

Thanks, Jim, for the tickets.  I can't believe we'd never even heard of this place before!  It was really quite amazing.

The weather - perfect.

The paths through the park wind around ponds, lakes, and streams, and out into the woods and back.  All of the paths are lit with luminaries.  Thousands of hand-lit luminaries?  There were carolers and instrumentalists, and fires and warm cider throughout the walk.  It really was quite magical.


And Santa was there.  He was meeting with kids from 6-8pm.

Here's the stark contrast between my children.  At the ripe old age of 3 years and 5 weeks, Zach took one look at a mall Santa and looked back at us and said, "That's just a guy in a costume, right?"  He has never believed in Santa.

Luke ... on the other hand ... heard that Santa was meeting with kids in the visitor's center and said, "WHAT?!?!  SANTA IS HERE?!?!  REALLY?  SANTA?  WHERE????"

I explained that kids were waiting in line to talk to him, but that we could walk up near the front of the line and just look at him.  It was already 6:05, so I figured he'd already have a child on his lap.  However, he wasn't there yet...  We came back about 15 minutes later.  The line was longer, and the same people were still waiting at the front of the line - looking more displeased by the second.  We'd decided that catching a glimpse of Santa just wasn't in the cards, so we headed on out to our car.

Look who we passed on the way?

Both of the boys gave cheery high-fives ... so excited, that it didn't even occur to Luke to tell him what he wanted for Christmas.

The whole evening was perfect. Awesome weather, beautiful lights, well behaved kids, Christmas carols ... and, as much as we keep the Santa hype to a minimum, it was delightful to see Luke get so excited over seeing this man in the beautiful red suit with the flowing white beard.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thanksgiving tradition

As we approached our first holiday season as husband and wife in 2002, Bryan and I began talking (at the last minute of course) about what our family traditions would look like.  We settled on putting our tree up on Thanksgiving evening while snacking on leftovers; however, there were two issues.  One - Thanksgiving was the next day.  Two - We had no tree or decorations.

So, Wednesday night we headed out to pick up the necessities.  We stopped in at Lowe's first to look at trees.  We liked one a lot, but decided to look at Target first before buying.  Target had ornaments that we liked, but not a tree that we loved.  So...   We headed back over to Lowe's.

But, there was a problem - Lowe's had just closed.

But my husband, now fully committed to this tradition that we dreamed up two hours prior, wasn't to be deterred.  He spotted an employee in the window and knocked until he got their attention.  Through the window he pleaded, "Can we come in PLEASE?  For just a minute.  We just need one thing.  This is a Thanksgiving emergency."

I still giggle at our Thanksgiving emergency.  Christmas tree shopping!

The nice guy let us in and we bought our tree and were out in a matter of minutes.  Then we headed back over to Target to buy our ornaments, but found that the ones we wanted were on display, with very few remaining on the shelf.  And we were told we couldn't undress the trees to buy the ornaments ... even though they were individual ornaments and each had a price tag on it.  So, each time the worker looked away, we'd sneak what we wanted off the tree!

The birth of our Thanksgiving tradition is always funny and wonderful to look back on.  My husband loves me so much that our tradition was an emergency

For the first time in ten years together, Bryan worked on Thanksgiving this year.  We changed up our tradition a little by putting the tree up on Wednesday ... and dining on smoked ham, candied sweet potatoes, twice baked potato casserole, and sweet potato rolls.  Regarding the menu, our kids put it best - we love the potatoes and pig around here!

We had another blessed Thanksgiving this year.  We put our tree up on Wednesday, then went to my mother-in-law's for Thanksgiving lunch, turned on our outdoor lights, took our first light drive of the season, and had Bryan's father over Thanksgiving evening.  God is so abundantly good and generous.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

A suitcase full of nurf guns

This is so awesome. I can't help but laugh out loud. Where did he come up with this stuff?


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

More on prayer (could also read Moron Prayer)

A few years ago I was invited to be a part of a prayer team for a nationwide woman's ministry.  Explaining that I was no where near a "prayer warrior" I agreed to pray for and correspond with women who wrote in with wounds specific to childhood abuse or sexual trauma.  About a year later, I sent an embarrassing email saying that I just stunk at praying for their needs, and perhaps they shouldn't count on me to ever become a "prayer warrior".  Shortly after, I stopped receiving specific needs, but to this day, I remain on a general list of prayer requests.  They were so gracious.  They didn't just drop me like a bad habit ... but, if I'm being honest, I secretly wished they had so I wouldn't feel guilty over being terrible at prayer.

Through Bible study this fall, the issue of my prayer life moved to the front burner.  I passed a note to a woman in our group, asking that she join me in praying that my prayer life would be set on fire.  And it has been!  I have found myself walking through my days praying constantly, fervently, with depth and faith, and with personal needs and desires.

I have long been a thankful prayer; however, I have never been one to ask for much.  I've often wound up saying "I pray that what you want happens and that I'll be at peace with it".  My seasons of praying little had been prompted by this idea that "God knows what's on my mind and in my heart.  He knows what I desire and what He plans, so my prayers really won't affect anything other than my attitude, and I'm already okay with God being the boss so I'll just let it play out..."

But it's recently hit me that He really wants me to ask Him.  It's not enough for God to just know what I'm thinking and wanting - He wants me to ask Him.  And I needn't be ashamed or embarrassed, guilted into believing that asking for things is selfish.

So...  I was feeling unsure of how I fit in in a certain environment, so I asked God to allow specific conversations to happen - so I'd know where I stood.  I fought the urge to chastise myself for being needy and insecure, relying on the acceptance of people rather than just "being filled up by God and God alone."  I prayed that I would be affirmed by a specific person, and I was!  Right away.  First it was very casual, and I prayed that He would really draw us together and give us hearts for and vulnerability with one another.  Immediately, we were led to meaningful conversations that both of us really needed to have.  I praise God for moving this person towards me, prompting our discussions.  It could not have happened in reverse; and what seemed an improbability turned out to happen very easily and naturally.

God doesn't always answer our prayers the way we want, but I do believe He is eager to pour out blessings on us and give us fulfillment beyond anything we can imagine.  But maybe we don't get all of what He wants to give us if we don't ask for it.

“Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened."  Matthew 7:7-8

"I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity he will surely get up and give you as much as you need."  Luke 11:8

Prayer is so simple ... yet, for me, it has not be a natural or easy concept.  I'm so glad to have such a patient and generous Heavenly Father who puts up with my slow learning curve.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Bathtime bliss

On the rare occasion that we slow down long enough for Luke to take a bath, it's like heaven on earth for him.  Normally, it's a rushed shower.  Often with his brother in there - taking up space, hogging the water, bickering over who's freezing or who's fault it is that water is all over the floor.

But, Zach showered this morning...so Luke has the freedom to bathe on his own tonight.

He's swimming as I type.  Dunking his head.  Using plastic restaurant kids cups to pour water (because I recently threw away the cutesy stacking cups from the "baby days").  Liberally applying way too much soap as he washes each toe individually.  Giving himself a mohawk.  Diving for sunken treasure.  He probably has some green army guys in there too.

As I watch him play in the tub, I wonder why we don't slow down more often.  Childhood passes too quickly.  I'm going to try to plan bath time better - allowing for lazy days in the tub as often as possible.

I could benefit from a lazy soak myself!


And I never want to forget...  Zach was responsible for helping Luke get the tub ready.  He picked the right water temperature, laid the bath mat out for him, plugged the tub, even fetched the toys Luke wanted.  He stopped by one last time to check on him before settling into a TV show.  On his way down the stairs, he was beaming as he said, "I sure like helping Luke.  It's fun!"

I will remember that tomorrow when he protests, "Why do I have to do everything?"

I love being their mom.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Halloween fun

Pumpkin patch with the Cobin family


2nd grade party

The boys' first walk-thru haunted house...complete with scary guy chasing you out of the backyard with a chainsaw!  We had to come home and watch a little Noggin to clear our heads before bed.


Painted pumpkins


Trick-or-treating with Carol and Caleb