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...