Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Gone campin'

Thirty years from now I want my kids to remember stuff like Sunday night.  It was Memorial Day weekend and we were finally forecast a night without rain.  We decided to make it a camping night.

Our first time ever camping!

We pitched a tent in the backyard.

We bought a very fancy "firepit" for $5 at Walgreens.  The charcoal cost $3.50.

While the boys and I went after s'mores necessities (and the firepit we stumbled upon) Bryan ran over to Home Depot for some tiki torches.

Why don't we sit around a fire as a family more often?


The boys tried to put out the lights as bedtime approached.

And the giggling inside the tent was more than I could have imagined. 

We no sooner got semi-settled before our next door neighbor let their dog out.  As the dog barked at us, we couldn't help but bark back. I hope he's not scarred by it - we thought it was hysterical.

To help us settle down again, Bryan invented a game that involved giving compliments to each other, in alphabetical order.  A for Daddy...  Daddy is AWESOME!  The boys' favorite was Q for Luke...  Luke is QUEEN!

As my family drifted off to sleep, I recognized each of their breathing patterns, body twitches and snoring.  I was so happy to be there.  I was wide awake, so I stayed still and prayed.  How could I not?  God gave us an incredible evening that I will forever cherish.

Talk about a simple, yet wonderful, staycation.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Moving on

Another school year has come and gone.

As predicted, Luke loved school.  He made a lot of new friends and grew relationships with many children he's known all of his life.  He went on his first ever drop-off playdates and received invitations to friends' birthday parties.  He finished 4 year old preschool able to count into the hundreds, doing very simple math and beginning to read.  The closing program was a real treat, as he is quite enthusiastic when he sings and dances!  He might feign shyness and protest picture taking, but deep down he enjoys the spotlight. 

As we were sitting through the closing program, I knew it was possible that we were saying a final goodbye to this very special school.  We have loved it here.  (I had a job interview nine hours after the program....)  As it turns out, we are leaving.  I will be teaching at a homeschool enrichment center, where Luke will attend as a kindergartner.  We are excited about my new job, but leaving this beloved school and teachers who have become dear friends is bittersweet.

Zachary loved first grade, but that too has come to an end.  A part of Zach would like to skip second grade and just move on to third.  Most of all, he'd just like to hang with his cousin, but I think he'd miss his friends a lot more than he realizes.  Besides, second grade is the natural next step, so it's the one he'll take.  And he'll love it!

The next time we put on "school clothes" we'll be a grade older - and I will be a teacher!  Luke will be 5 and Zach will be approaching his 8th birthday.  Time is flying by...but as I look at these photos I can't help but feel grateful that it's flying by with so many of the same friends we've had for years.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Field Day Fun

 Jump the creek


Boys with big egos...

...are humbled by girls who let go of the rope!

Little brother.


Sack lunch in the classroom.

 A quick picture with Mom.

5th grade friend who asks for my preschooler's hand on the walk to the car after school.

There was also a tornado scare, but I already blogged that...

Seeking shelter

As tornado sirens blared in our community this morning, our family hunkered down in a shelter hallway at Zach's grade school.  It was Field Day and Bryan, Luke and I had come over to take in the entertainment.

We got a little more than we bargained for, but there was nowhere else I'd rather have been. A really devastating tornado hit Joplin, MO over the weekend, so everyone's weather sensitivities are hightened right now.

As I watch TV footage of the devastation from the Joplin tornado, I'm reminded also of my sexual abuse recovery groups and the men and women everywhere whose lives are in shambles.  My sexual abuse recovery groups are never far from my mind during tornado season.  You see, we met on Thursday nights during our very first semester 3 years ago, and just about every Thursday night there were tornado watches, warnings and sirens blaring.  We met several times in a lower room in our church while seeking shelter.

The name of our study?  Shelter From the Storm.  How's that for poetic?  It was never lost on us.

It may seem morbid, but I snapped this picture today.  (Those are my boys in the left foreground.)

As I look at this picture of the kids seeking shelter today, so many thoughts run through my mind.  My body aches just thinking about the position they sat in.  I sat like that for about 5 seconds before my legs were in agony - the children were like that for twenty minutes.  The majority of the children were perfectly calm, but I suspect that is only because they don't know enough yet to really understand how powerful and destructive tornadoes are.  On the outside, every adult appeared to be holding it together; but I noticed some shaking hands, teary eyes and worried whispers.  It was hot and uncomfortable in the hallway.  Adults passed out file folders to use to fan the masses of children, but it was still very stuffy.  Kids were hungry, and there was no food available.  Some needed to use the restroom.  It was difficult to remain quiet for the duration.

The fear, discomfort and difficulty faced in this situation is comparable to that faced by a survivor of sexual abuse.  The position an abused child is placed in is unbearably painful.  Rarely does a child directly report abuse, but if you look closely there are often signs.  Many adult survivors look like they have it all together, only to be dying inside - many destroying themselves with their self-destructive choices and behaviors.  All too often, adults notice little things that are just "off" about a child or family, but do little more than fan a child with small doses of care while leaving the child in a crushing environment.  The abused child is starved of love, appropriate affection, and protection.  The abused child's needs are not met.  The abused child is not heard, and grows into an adult who cannot begin to heal until they share their painful secret.

There is no doubt in my mind that prayers were said in that hallway today.  There were prayers said throughout the city, I'm sure.  And just like there were people praying through the storm today, there are people scattered throughout every survivor's life who pray for them.  I believe God honors prayer.  And He uses our pain for good, and gives purpose even to the garbage of our lives.  He rescues.  He restores.

We can hunker down in the sturdiest storm shelter known to man, but God is our one true shelter.

"You have been a refuge for the poor, a refuge for the needy in their distress, a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat." Isaiah 25:4

"You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people."  Genesis 50:20

"When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day."  Psalm 32:3

"I will go before you and will level the mountains; I will break down gates of bronze and cut through bars of iron.  I will give you hidden treasures, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the LORD, the God of Israel, who summons you by name." Isaiah 45:2-3

"He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire.  He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along."  Psalm 40:2

I praise God for the tremendous recovery in my life...and for each recovery story I've heard or have been privileged to be a part of.  I love that He is an ever-present shelter and source of comfort, healing, peace and joy.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Secret admirer

Zachary wins candy at church every Sunday for answering questions, memorizing verses, and participating in discussion.  With his food restrictions, most candies are off limits nowadays - including everything handed out during Sunday school.  I'd told Zach that he could still accept the candy and that I would just swap them out at home, but he came up with his own plan.

He asked for a paper sack, and decorated it...

He brought the candies home for his brother.  He never complained that it wasn't fair, nor did he ask for a special treat.  He had a gift for his brother, and expected nothing in return.

He included a note too.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

A new era

Aside from his family, Bryan's first love was baseball. 

By the time he was two years old, he was watching entire MLB games with his family.  In t-ball, he was turning triple plays!  His dad coached all of his little league teams.  He played on a highly competitive legion team during the summers in high school; even arriving a week late to college because his legion team was playing in the World Series!  He was on baseball scholarships throughout college and aspired to play in the Majors till a shoulder injury ended his college career his senior year.  Evidently he had a legendary pick-off move to second base.

I'd known Bryan since 8th grade, but somehow I missed the fact that he was a baseball superstar.  I just thought he was a tall, skinny, goofy kid with big ears who could sing!  As I've reconnected with former high school teachers and peers, I've found that everyone remembers Bryan as an awesome ball player.  I wish that I'd known that part of Bryan.  (We'll have to get out those old VHS tapes again.)

So...  Upon hearing those three most perfect words - It's a Boy! - Bryan immediately had visions of baseballs, bats, striped jerseys, scorching bleachers, sweaty ball caps, shining cleats and rubbing shaving cream into a glove.  It was only human to dream of a little baseball player to follow in his footsteps.

He didn't expect soccer.  He had no idea how much he could LOVE and DELIGHT in soccer.  But we do.  Our oldest boy chose soccer and Bryan has never missed a beat coaching his teams and making investments in his boy's soccer ambitions.  Grandpa has always been completely plugged in too, as he's helped coach practice on occasion and has been a constant source of coaching advice for his son. 

As our younger boy is coming of sporting age and figuring out what interests him, a fabulous new era began.  On Saturday, Luke had his first t-ball game.  His first little league colors are the same as his daddy's first college uniform - Grandpa pointed that out.

Luke looks a lot like his mother, but his personality is so much more his father's.  Ornery, quick-witted, hilarious, energetic, athletic, can do anything.  I look forward to watching him on the t-ball field this summer.

I look forward to seeing where the future takes each of my kids.


Friday, May 20, 2011

A pair

I often find it hard to believe that these little people are a part of me.  God knit them together in my womb and entrusted them to my care and teaching.  When I look into their faces and ponder this incredible gift, it is completely overwhelming.  An overjoyed kind of overwhelming.

They have my dad's eyes and my nose.  Between them, they have a pair of dimples...  Had you ever noticed that Zach has a right dimple and Luke a left?  God made them to be a pair!  I pray that my boys will always cherish one another and remain close throughout their entire lives.

They are the best things I've ever done.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Do over

My friend Cori wrote this hysterical blog post the other day about her son's temper tantrum... and she used the word "possessed" in reference to her youngest blessing.  Boy could I relate.

Take last night.

I had class - my last final of the semester, by the way - so Bryan was alone with the kids.  They'd been going at it since Zach got home from school, and Bryan decided to capture some of the craziness on video so they could watch themselves later.  Luke was attacking Zach in the backyard with a (stale) loaf of bread.  You read that right - a loaf of bread!  Each time Luke would lunge at Zach with the loaf of bread, Zach would "defend" himself with a plastic baseball bat.  There was shouting and crying...  I'm sure the neighbors loved it.

No children were harmed in the making of this video, but boy did they feel bad later when they saw it!

After we put the kids to bed, we asked ourselves: "What on earth is going on that's caused this craziness?"

Could it be...

That Mom has been very busy studying for finals?
That Dad had to work through Mother's Day weekend, only to get laid-off five days later?
That, in the middle of finals, Mom also had a garage sale?
That Zach had "a week of stage fright" last week?
That Zach has been in pain?
That Zach saw the inside of a doctor's office and radiology labs three times in a week?
That Zach has had to change his diet dramatically...and constantly has to explain it?
That the school year is coming to an end, bringing sadness, excitement and nervousness?

I can see why my kids are out of sorts.  It's time for our family to regroup and slow down - even if just for a family movie night, story time, or craft.

Bryan was so awesome this morning...  He apologized to the kids for losing his cool last night and we explained that Mom and Dad are going to be more intentional about helping them resolve their disputes and deal with whatever emotions they are feeling.  The children are responsible for their behavior, but there is room here for grace and understanding...and modeling how to appropriately deal with stress, illness, bad news, and over scheduling.  I can assure you that they have never seen Bryan hit me with a loaf of bread or a baseball bat...but they have certainly heard raised voices in this house.  We are rethinking our discipline.

I'm grateful this morning for do-overs.  Today Bryan and I are more aware of our thoughts, feelings and emotions, and we will be mindful of those of our children.  They take their cues from us.

"Now it's up to you. Be on your toes—both for yourselves and your congregation of sheep. The Holy Spirit has put you in charge of these people—God's people they are—to guard and protect them. God himself thought they were worth dying for.  " Acts 20:28

"Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will direct your paths."  Proverbs 3:5-6

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

I Love My Mom, by Zach

In honor of Mother's Day, the first graders at Zach's school wrote books about their mothers.  Each class had an Author's Party on Monday, allowing each of the children a chance to read their book in front their classmates and their moms.  The books were awesome.  Some of my favorite quotes...  "My mom's favorite TV show is American Idol... and she watches a lot of Fox News."  "My mom shows respect for me by cleaning my room."  "My mom makes me feel good and goofy."  "My mom likes the Yankees, because she really likes to watch Derek Jeter."  Out of the mouths of babes...  Precious!

In very typical Zach style - and a lot like his mother - he uses a lot of adjectives and provides many details about a few things, rather than few details about a lot of things.  He made me laugh as he read about our "peaceful" drives and "graceful" meals, as those are not words I'd use to describe any portion of our daily lives!

And...  Details of Sunday school totally took over the first half of the book.  Since I consider sharing Christ with my boys to be my greatest responsibility, I take this section of the book as a tremendous compliment.  He loves church.  He loves God.  And he loves his "Christian, great mom".

Zach, I couldn't be more proud.  As you read about your church that you love so much, 19 other kids and their parents were listening.  You may never know, but you might have encouraged someone to start going to church!  I am also very proud of how well you have overcome your stage fright.  It took tremendous courage for you to get up there and read in front of an audience.  You did great!!  Daddy and I are so very proud of the young man you are becoming.