Thursday, March 31, 2011

I'm sure it's nothing, but...

I feel really nervous.  Luke has a doctor's appointment in 75 minutes.  In all honesty, I don't believe anything is actually wrong.  My gut tells me that his frequent and urgent urination is behavioral, but as I noticed it getting progressively more severe, I decided to make an appointment with his pediatrician to know for sure that it's nothing serious.  In the ten minutes that I was on the phone making that appointment, he used the restroom three times.  And suddenly I felt he urgently needed to be seen and we had two days to wait.

Now that the appointment is nearing, the what-ifs are running through my mind.  I hate what-ifs.  I've prayed through it and I completely trust God in this matter.  I know we will be fine - and I don't even really believe he's sick - but the mere possibility that my son's life may not be easy-breezy is no fun for Mom.

This child -- my Luke -- manages to come up with a really good mystery diagnosis about once a year.  We've never had anything remotely peculiar with Zachary...  He had pneumonia once, but it was easily diagnosed and treated.  Not so much with Luke...  Stinker.

So, Luke...  When you're my age and reading through this (because I know Dad will have it printed for me as a Christmas gift), know that no matter how many times you've dragged me to the doctor or hospital, it hasn't gotten any easier.  In the 8 years and 3 months since I first had a child growing in my womb, I have wandered through each day with my heart on the outside of my body.  I pray that you will one day know this feeling (and I don't mean as payback).  I love you, young man.


Update:  Luke is perfectly fine.  We ruled out diabetes and infection with a simple urinalysis - which is exactly what I needed to hear.  We put him in pull-ups again at night, figuring he was just trying to avoid a nighttime accident (he'd had two).  He's still dry every night, but going back into pull-ups seems to have freed his mind of worry....and obsession with using the restroom every ten minutes all day!  We'll wean him off the pull-ups another day.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Even happier now...nine years later

Nine years ago today a starry-eyed couple, passionately possessing that wonderful feeling of love, said "I do".  We had no idea just how many times we'd have to fall back on something other than the feeling of love, but on love in action - sacrifice, cooperation, commitment, loyalty, team work, vulnerability, honesty, and ... dare I say ... communication.

We were ill-equipped for marriage on our own.  It is only through the grace of God that I am still married to this incredible man.  I love you, B.


My sweet friend Jennifer asked me to share the story of how we met.  So, here goes.  Just the highlights though, carpooling awaits.

  • We met in the commons area of our high school during lunch.  I was 13 1/2, he was 14 1/2.
  • Throughout high school, we did not date.  I had no idea he was even interested in me.  He says we talked on the phone often, but I have no memory of that.  Paralyzed and half feeling like I deserved it, I watched someone steal my wallet out of my purse when I was in 8th grade.  Bryan was the one who encouraged me to tell the Vice Principal right away.  The thief dropped it in the hall; so, thanks to Bryan, I found my voice (albeit temporarily) and retrieved my stolen property.
  • He graduated 3 1/2 years later.  In my yearbook, he proposed we elope.  In his yearbook, I proposed we hang out "as friends".  I used those two blessed words five times!
  • He went off to college.  I had one year of high school left.  We never did hang out as friends.
  • Three years later, he saw "the most beautiful woman he'd ever laid eyes on" through a store window.  It was me.  His buddy was rushing him off though, so he didn't get to come in to say hello.
  • Seven years after the store window, he messaged me through  The stars had aligned.  I was going through a divorce and moving back home from Florida.  He lived in my mom's apartment complex.  He was single.  
  • We started dating as soon as I moved home and married six months after my divorce was final.  Some thought it was so fast that my sweet aunt frantically blurted, "Is it even legal?"
  • Her point was taken...  We were marrying against the odds.  It was rushed.  I was broken.  
  • But God is good.  He used Bryan's stubbornness and exceedingly loyal nature to hold us together when I wanted to run...  And He ultimately (and rather quickly, I might add) did a mighty work in healing me into the kind of wife Bryan deserves.
Hope the story is as good as you'd remembered, Jen.  It's one I cherish.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Prayer life

I have not stopped thinking about this conversation that I had with Zach after church yesterday.

Zach:  "I prayed three times at church today."
Me:  "Out loud?"  (I didn't pray aloud with peers until I was 31.)
Zach:  "No, in my head.  I tried to pray during a song, but it was hard to focus."
Me:  "Really?  You prayed during a song?  About what?"
Zach:  "I asked Him (huh, my kid calls God HIM?) to help me when I'm afraid and to help me to do the right thing."
Me:  "Were you feeling afraid?  Or was the song about God helping kids to not be afraid, or to do the right thing?"
Zach:  "No.  I don't even remember what the song was about.  I just wanted to pray about not being afraid and doing the right thing.  I also prayed another time that God would help all the kids to listen, hear the message God had for them, and behave at church."

I'm just so encouraged by the prayer life of this 7 1/2 year old boy.

If I'm being honest, I am not sure that I have used prayer the right way in my kids' lives.  As newborns, I definitely felt moved to pray with them and over them.  They were beautiful, emotional, heart-felt prayers of thanksgiving; asking for wisdom, direction, provision, and blessing for my newborn boys and their Daddy and me.  As they got older, I began praying with them in the car every time we were going somewhere that I would be separated from them (church nursery, school, and even friend's houses and birthday parties).  Parts of these prayers are still very heart-felt and personal, but there is also a modeling and directing component for the kids.  For years now, we have prayed for safety while apart, listening ears, self-control, hallway hands, learning the lesson God has for them (academic and otherwise), developing good friendships and character, being brave, trying our best, blessings and endurance for their teachers, etc.  Pieces of that are very personal, but in the back of my mind, I know that other pieces of these prayers serve to prepare my kids for their departure into someone else' care.

When I put words to it, it sounds like a reminder through prayer of how they should behave.  I don't know if my method is manipulating or godly.  I certainly don't mean for it to be manipulating.  I just mean for us to include God in our discussions; submitting our behavior and our day to Him.

As unsure as I am right now, Zachary has gotten one thing right that I do not have right in my own life.  He talks to God constantly.  He prays at school, on the playground, while having a popsicle or sitting on the sidelines at soccer.  Not just when he's going somewhere new, facing a challenge, processing a situation, or feeling thankful or in need.  He talks to God the way he talks to friends over lunch.  He cherishes time talking with his Heavenly father and believes that he can do all things through Christ who strengthens him.  I often spend time struggling through something alone, and only come crawling to God when my own strength fails, or when I'm feeling especially grateful, or need to "pray up" for a task at hand.  I don't just chat with God the way Zach does.

Thinking back to my childhood - how alone I felt and how intimidated I was by other people - I am so inspired by Zach's comfort in his own skin and his awareness of God's presence.  That comes to him through his personal relationship with Christ - this relationship that has a depth and richness well beyond his 7 1/2 years. 

When I grow up, I want to be like Zach.

Sunday, March 27, 2011


Luke played his first soccer game of his life yesterday (first sport of any sort) and I missed it.  I was at our church's women's retreat.  I had an amazing weekend, but I had to choke back tears as I texted my boy great luck and love while sitting in our Saturday morning large group session.  I'm so thankful to Zach for taking video of the game.  The cameraman was moving and shaking a great deal, but so much more than that...he offered up awesome encouragement and instruction as he cheered for his younger brother and his team.  This is quite possibly the best home video I've ever seen.  From now on, I'm thinking maybe the kids should hold the video camera and narrate from their perspective.

Today Zachary scored his first goal of the season.  Before the game started I asked him if he'd score one for me and I'm so thrilled that he delivered.  The Rockets played an awesome game today!

Did I mention that it snowed during both games?  Crazy weather...  We'll be in sundresses and shorts for next weekend's games. 

Cutest of all...  How many parents can say that their children have slept outside in the snow?  This was just around half time.  When we left 20 minutes later, the ground was covered in white and our fingers were frozen.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

I've missed this!

Without the distraction of studies these last few days, I've really enjoyed my old normal.

We've had dinner with friends.
I finally got new running shoes.
I've gone on several runs.
I took Luke to an outdoor McDonald's Playland... He was so thrilled!
I've played basketball with the boys every morning before school and most days after school.
We had drop-in company for an hour last night.
I went to Zach's soccer practice and practiced with Luke.
I helped Zach re-learn how to ride his bike.
We went to the park as a family one evening.
I've done a lot of laundry, dusted and vacuumed, and changed bed sheets.
I've played several games of Sorry with the family.
I cuddled with Luke in front of the TV yesterday.
I've even sat down for breakfast with my kids!  (I usually clean the kitchen while they eat.)
And...  I grounded Luke from all computer and video games for throwing tantrums.  Grounding from electronics means much more work for Mom, but I've risen to the occasion.

I love being a wife and mother.

Vintage McDonald's

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

See any resemblance?

Wow.  I haven't seen these pictures in a while.  It sort of tickles me to know that I have the same DNA running through my veins as everyone in these photos.  While I know these embraces only lasted a short time, it somehow feels complete just to look at these pictures.  It's a weird feeling.

Do you see any resemblance?

 My mother, my father, my paternal grandmother, my brother (age 4).
Peanut-Tonya is incubating in her mother's womb.
(I have never once called him my half-brother, but we have different fathers.)

My mom, my dad, my brother

My paternal grandfather, me, and my father.
Feb. 2000

Monday, March 21, 2011


I have been drenched in tears much of the last two days.  Normally our life is peaceful and predictable, with the occasional upset coming from children who are tired, not feeling well, or are simply not getting their way.  But these last 12 days have seen ailing family members, loved ones struggling with untreated mental illness, suffering children, fathers abandoning their families, heartache over the inability to make everything better, and then learning of the death of my own father.  Our hearts have felt so heavy.

I ran some errands with Luke this afternoon and listened to K-Love between stops.  I still cannot believe the songs they played while I was listening.  So perfectly timed.

How Great is Our God
I Refuse
Who Will Love Me For Me?

I sure do love these reminders and promises.

When I got home from errands, I found that my friend had emailed Psalm 46 to me.  I read it with fresh eyes and ears today.

1 God is our refuge and strength,
   an ever-present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
   and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
3 though its waters roar and foam
   and the mountains quake with their surging.[c]
 4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
   the holy place where the Most High dwells.
5 God is within her, she will not fall;
   God will help her at break of day.
6 Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
   he lifts his voice, the earth melts.
 7 The LORD Almighty is with us;
   the God of Jacob is our fortress.
 8 Come and see what the LORD has done,
   the desolations he has brought on the earth.
9 He makes wars cease
   to the ends of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
   he burns the shields[d] with fire.
10 He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
   I will be exalted among the nations,
   I will be exalted in the earth.”
 11 The LORD Almighty is with us;
   the God of Jacob is our fortress.

I am so grateful for God's overwhelming provision in every sense of the word.  He makes - and keeps - life-sustaining promises.  He pours out his love and mercy on me every moment of every day.  And He has gifted me with an abundance of incredible relationships.  Although I have seen what feels like the earth giving way and mountains crumbling into the sea, I am well aware of how tremendously blessed I am.  For the Lord is with me!  God is my fortress.

My birth father

I looked into the eyes of my birth father for four days in Feb. 2000.  I had talked to him on the phone daily for about a week leading up to that weekend.  I had never spoken to him before that, and I haven't heard from him since.

He was 20 when I was born.  Young, addicted and abusive.  He was not a good fit for fatherhood when I was a child, but I always held out hope that he would one day come around.

We met over his twin brother's funeral.  I called my father to ask if it would be okay for me to come; if he would be okay with that.  I will never forget the sound of his voice on the other end of the phone...  His response to, "This is Tonya...  Your daughter."  I could hear the shaking, the surprise, the happiness, even the regret.  Our weekend together was nice, in spite of the circumstances.  We held hands, stared at each other a lot, and sat alone pouring through photo albums and high school yearbooks in my grandparent's basement while the rest of the family gathered upstairs.  He took me over to meet his birth father.  We talked about my childhood - which was not an easy one - and he wept over the things I had been through. 

It was all very hard for my father.  Saying good-bye to the only thing that was ever constant in his life - his twin.  Meeting his daughter after a 26 year absence.  Reuniting with his parents after 15 years of estrangement.  He had a lot to process; and to top it off, his daughter had a Dad-sized hole in her heart.  He just couldn't do it; so he never returned a phone call or responded to my letters after that.

I'd just met my grandparents - my father's mother and (adopted / step) father in 1997.  We'd had a good relationship and were very eager to know one another, but when things became complicated with my dad, they became quiet.  I did too.  I sent them Christmas cards for a couple of years after Zach was born, but the last correspondence I received from them was Christmas 2003 (Zach was 3 months old).

I have been waiting these last eleven years for them to heal and get comfortable.  I didn't want to upset or offend them by initiating a relationship or asking about the half-brother my father told me I had, so I was waiting for "the right time".  I didn't want to go snooping into the half-brother, in case he wasn't emotionally ready to deal with our father, or even me.  Dad-sized holes are painful.  Situations like this are complicated.

As I was watching Who Do You Think You Are? yesterday, I laughed at the seeming simplicity of  Rosie O'Donnell made it look pretty easy to track down her family, but I really doubted it was.  Out of curiosity, I set up a 14 day free trial account and started searching.  It didn't take long to find useful records.  However, they weren't useful in the way I was hoping.  There was no record that said my dad and so-and-so gave birth to this baby boy on this date...

Instead, I found my father's death certificate.  He died two days before Zach's second birthday.  Five and a half years ago, at the age of 52.  I found the obituary online too.  It named a loving and caring wife as a survivor, along with five children - none of us named - and five grandchildren - all of them named.  My son was named as his fifth surviving grandchild.  It is so surreal.  Despite all I know about their pain-filled lives, I am still surprised that my grandparents did not let me know that my father was sick.  I cannot believe that no one notified me of his passing, allowing me the chance to finally belong to him and sit in a place of honor as his child.

I never really believed that my father would reach out to me, but I always held out hope that one day I could know him.

Over these last seven years, the Dad-sized hole in my heart has been so generously tended to by my loving and perfect Heavenly Father.  There is no way I could graciously weather this most recent storm without having had that healing.  I rest knowing that I belong with Him and He calls me his, no matter what I am called by earthly beings.

Knowing all that I know, and even having processed through every what-if under the sun over the last 30 years, this reality is still so very heartbreaking.  The depths of my grief has really taken me by surprise.  The possibility of my father ever getting equipped for relationships with his children is now gone, and with him might have gone the names and links to my siblings too.

I've been clinging to my children a little tighter in the last 24 hours.  I have defined love to my kids every day of their lives.  "No matter what mistakes you make, I will never love you any less.  I will always protect you.  You can always count on Daddy and me.  You are never alone.  I am so very proud of you.  I am glad God gave you to me.  You are special.  I will never walk away from you."  I make these promises and declarations to my children every single day; I suspect, because no one ever made them to me and I want my kids to know what it means to be a parent and what it means to be loved.  No matter how short my childhood home might have fallen; the record has been set right for my children.  For that knowledge and wisdom, I am grateful.  Out of pain and disconnection, has come love, belonging and commitment.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Spring break

The kids' spring break comes to a close tomorrow; just as mine begins.  We have had more going on in these last 11 days than we have ever had in our entire marriage.  To top it off, after two and a half weeks of unpaid time-off, Bryan went back to work on Monday (this is a great thing, but boy could I have used the extra hands around the house this week!).  I had a full course load of assignments, plus exams in every single class this week.  And there was a dental appointment, a farewell lunch with a childhood friend who is moving to New York City, soccer practice, and Breanna came to visit us for the day on Friday.

The week was a blur and I hate the way rushing and being over-scheduled makes me feel physically.  I cannot relax and I am constantly exhaling and sighing.  My mind runs non-stop and I barely sleep.  I hate it.

I have one mid-term that is due by tomorrow night, and another that is due a week later.  Phew!  I am so grateful that my Mass Communications professor gave us all of spring break to take our exam.

So...  I have a to-do list for my spring break. Between mid-terms and assignments, I've actually fantasized about the things on my to-do list.  That probably makes it more of a wish list...soon to be dream-come-true list!

Finally get fitted for new running shoes.
Run every single day.
Have a nice long visit with my cousin.
Do laundry.
Take my Mass Communications mid-term.
Get my teeth cleaned.
Get the dog's nails trimmed.
Pick up my prescription.
Enjoy 24 hours at my church's women's retreat.

How sad is it that I want to do laundry?  It just feels like forever since I've done normal mom stuff.  As grateful as I am for this second chance to finish my college education, I am longing for the lazy days of summer when I just get to be a full-time mom again.  I miss my kids and the simplicity of worrying only about balanced meals, homework and the kids' schedules.  (If I ponder aloud the possibility of knocking a class out during the summer, slap me.)

Friday, March 18, 2011

Breanna was here!

Breanna came back from Texas to visit over spring break.  We had her all day today, so I took the day off from studying and took the kids, along with a friend and her daughter, to the Museum of Natural History.  We had a great time.  It was wonderful to see Breanna and hear how life is treating her in Texas.  She is as happy, spunky, and loving as ever.  We love her!


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Captain Underpants

Tonight is a milestone night.

As Luke puts it:  "I don't have any more pull-ups.  I'm Captain Underpants!"

Here's hoping Captain Underpants gets through tonight...and the next night...and the next... DRY.

We're pretty proud of the youngest member of our crew.  And so thankful to have said our final good night to Good Nites.  They served us well for years, but now we'll be investing in something else.

I wonder if the guys could get on board with a Chocolate fund replace our Good Nites fund?

Monday, March 14, 2011

Kids on K-Love

The following unfolded during the last 10 minutes of a car ride this afternoon -- as we were listening to K-Love.

Luke:  "I think it would be great if the people on American Idol would sing God songs...  But I bet the judges tell them they cannot sing God songs."

Luke:  "Mom, is this one a God song too?"
Zach:  "Do you hear Mom singing?  Then, of course it's a God song!"

Luke:  "Is he singing about real stuff?  Like real life stuff or pretend stuff?"
Me:  "He is singing about real stuff - about God's promises to always be with us and help us."
Luke:  "Well, I like the words but he sounds funny.  I could sing it better."

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Father of the Year

This week has brought a lot of unexpected happenings our way...  Things that most people aren't generally prepared for, and things I would definitely not even have allowed myself to deal with as recently as a few weeks ago.  But, the LifeGroup and Bible studies we've been a part of since August have led me to a place where I'd begun praying specifically for a change in my heart, for a softening and compassion, towards people who have hurt me and scared me away from them.  Knowing my tendency to begin down this road and then u-turn at the first sign of trouble, I shared this prompting that the Lord has laid on me with the women in my LifeGroup and Bible study; asking for frequent accountability and encouragement no matter how many excuses or justifications I might give for retreating again. 

By all worldly standards, I have every reason to keep up walls and refer to them as "boundaries".  Yet, I have been the recipient of God's abundant mercy, forgiveness and grace.  No matter how many times I mess it up with Him, he awaits my return with open arms and compassion.  I want to be that for those in my life who have hurt me.

And, so...  I began to pray.  And my friends began to pray.  And I committed to allowing them into my life; thinking of them as key people who I want to share Christ with.

And then they called.  Needing things that I could never have offered up just a few weeks ago, but that I am willing to wade into now; trusting that God's healing in my life is legitimate and that I am capable of handling this and not losing sight of who and whose I am.  I pray, sometimes minute by minute, that God would pour grace out on me, turn my heart towards them, and allow me to LOVE them in a way that is only possible through Him.

As I look at God's perfect timing in this...  How he has been tapping me on the shoulder for months, yet allowing me to agree to His prompting as I was ready.  And how I no sooner began praying and asking others to hold me accountable, that these people need me in ways that I could not have been used even a few weeks ago.  His timing is uncanny.  Not at all coincidence, but planned masterfully.  I cannot believe that He cares for each and every one of us so deeply; that he orchestrates things like this in every one of our lives.

And then Zach came home with this...

He nominated his Dad for Father of the Year.

I am overwhelmed by the love that my kids know.  I am so very grateful that they have no first hand knowledge of the emptiness that I once knew.  I am hopeful that their view of their Heavenly Father will never be skewed by anything we will do as parents; but that they will always know that their Daddy and I love them with all our hearts and souls, and that God loves them even more.  Talk about your father of the year!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Photo frenzy

I loaded all of our favorite pictures from our photo shoot with Denise into a photo book (follow the link to see it!) ... and, of course, ordered prints and a giant wrapped canvas.  Can't wait to get them!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Family pictures

I could not be happier with the pictures Denise took.  I've wanted to do this for so long, but never thought we could afford it.  After seeing how perfectly Denise captured our family, I've decided that I really couldn't afford not to do it!  Thank you, Denise.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

I needed that

There is this woman named Pam who has come to our VBS kick-off meeting for the past few years to present an overall picture of what the week's VBS lessons are about.  Her main objective is to warm us up for the week we will be spending at VBS this coming summer, but it always ends up being a personal devotion - or mini-sermon - tailor made just for me.

I frantically took notes - in red ink.  Red ink used to be for correcting students' work...which was basically what I used it for today.

My favorite Pam nuggets:

You cannot see where the wind is coming from, but you know it is there and can feel it blowing you around.  In much the same way, the Holy Spirit is there.  And, if I'm paying attention, I can feel it...yet I cannot see it.

When I turn away from God, a difficult life circumstance becomes even harder.  But when I turn back to God, the situation is easier.  God is my help.

Life isn't meant to be hard.  It is only as hard as I make it.

I can trust Jesus.

Pray preemptively.  "When I get to something really difficult, don't let me forget you."

Walk the walk and talk the that the children watching me will learn do the same.

Friday, March 4, 2011

It's moments like these...

I hear my sons laughing hysterically.  Finally, the one who started laughing first, walks down the stairs and gets my attention.  I turn to find him....wearing my bra and laughing so hard he's crying.

The other is coming out of his bathroom carrying the necessary supplies for a shower in my bathroom.  He starts laughing hysterically and says, "It's shamPOO.  Get it?  SHAM-POO!"

And this is why my blog bears the name One Girl Among a Bunch of Boys.  I am the only one under this roof who has never looked at a bra or bottle of shampoo and saw what they see.

I'm outnumbered and don't always understand them, but I wouldn't have it any other way.

Handmade by Luke

Luke came home from school with a backpack full of art yesterday.

He explained this one to me.  "I cut the pieces and I ripped them.  I picked the one with the star for the top because it is totally awesome.  Isn't it so cool, Mom?"

"This is some guy with red tummy armor.  He threw that fire bomb and exploded that white wall.  When he went into the white room, he found all these really bad guys, and he was mad because he's a good guy."

"I made this for Zach because I thought he would like it. I put that smiley heart because I love him and he is my best friend."

(I had no idea that he even knew how to spell Zach, let alone Zachary.  He doesn't even know how to spell his own full name!  And one super sweet side note, he is only called Zachary by family or those very close to him.  I adore that Luke referred to his brother in this note by his full name...that has, in an odd way, become an endearing special name that is reserved for only those closest to him.  Late addition:  I just noticed that Zach referred to LUCAS in this note.  I pray that my boys will forever cherish one another.  They are amazing brothers and have such a special relationship.)

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Happy birthday, Dr. Seuss

Hop on Pop was one of the first books Zach ever read by himself.

And, of course, we love...
One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish
The Cat in the Hat
Yertle the Turtle
Green Eggs and Ham
Dr. Seuss's ABC's
Fox in Sox
The Foot Book
The Lorax
There's a Wocket in my Pocket
Oh, the Places You'll Go!
and Horton Hears a Who!

Today we celebrate the great Dr. Seuss...and KU basketball.

This is what happens when your birthday falls right before March Madness.  It's sort of like having a birthday right around Christmas and getting a combo Christmas/Birthday gift.  Zach's Jayhawk springs off the hat.

Books & Breakfast before school