Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve:

One present each
cheese and fruit
reading together
kids off to bed - at least in theory
Mom writing Christmas letters
kids too excited to sleep
tree beautiful
stormy night
warmth inside

Friday, December 19, 2008

21 years today!!

21 years ago.....we were little more than children.  The wedding was beautiful and meaningful thanks mostly to my mom.  The women in our church went all out to help with the reception, including a beautiful cake.  The service itself brought me to tears as my dad prayed at the end for Kevin and I, thanking God for the blessings of having me in his home (oof!).

And here we are a little older, a little grayer (O.K., mine is covered up), but still loving each other and indeed blessed by God.

I can't tell you how it feel to be married to my husband for 21 years.  He is a hard working, loving, handsome and sweet man!  I love him, I love him, I love him.  And the greatest thing is that HE LOVES ME!!!!  I know that and I am secure in that love.  

Lord, help me to never, never take that love for granted.

Merry Christmas to you and your family.  Please take time to reflect on that greatest gift given so long ago, yet so current and relevant for today. 

Monday, December 8, 2008

Can you spell Christmas P-A-I-N?!

Every year around this time, my kids start really acting raunchy!  I noticed the first year I was a mom, I am sure, but it got really bad when they were all preschoolers and is still continuing to this day.  It just seems that no matter how good our fall was, it goes downhill from there and the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas is such PAIN!  They can't seem to get along, they don't want to do chores, they are antsy and bratty and unkind.  I kind of wish they believed in Santa, but even if they had when they were preschoolers, those days are LONG gone.  

Anyway, somehow we always make it through this time of the year without me killing them (you haven't read about me in the paper yet).  I hope God will give me grace to deal with them better than I have been the last few days.  Some things, hubby was like "let it go" and I didn't want to.  I didn't want to let it go because all this misbehavior just seems to "pile up".  I can't get over the last one, so they just merge from one into the other.  Maybe it is because at this point, the kids are getting too old to be coerced into seeing my viewpoint and apologizing.  One child in particular (no names, but only one of a different gender) can't seem to admit guilt or even "be" sorry.  O.K., I know you are tired of this vent or rant.  I will sign off, just remember me and my kids in your prayers.  We are having a bad month!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Mystery

We have this really slippery spot on our floors and stairs.  So slippery that #1 fell twice coming down the stairs!  He wasn't hurt, but he sure was sore.  Anyway, I have not cleaned the floors lately, the cleaning lady comes next week (so it wasn't her), and the dog was safely locked up so she couldn't have secretly stood on her hind legs and polished the floors.  The only thing I can think of is that while I was dusting the table in the foyer before I put up my nativity I have there, I got some Pledge on the floor.  But it is a huge area on both sides of the stairs and in front of them. Weird!  Well, now I have to clean the floors and get the "polish" off of them.  They have to be dull and lifeless again so my kids won't fall down.  How do I do that?  And #1 might be happy to not fall again, but the other kids will miss sliding on them.  Since we noticed it this afternoon, they have had a great time getting a running start and sliding into the front door!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Vacation with Friends and Family

This week we went to a little beach house with my in-laws near Ft. Morgan.  Our dear friends, the W's were there with their family.  They reserve their family beach house for Thanksgiving every year.  My friend's family, her mom and dad, and brother and his family all went down in the brother's coach.  We were staying about 3 miles away, so we easily went back and fortha nd even had one of her boys over the spend the night.  J's brother and his wife are very fun and we love spending time with them, too.  They have four little blond-headed girls who are the epitome of cute, sassy, and fun.  Their "least-un" (2 years old) shares my name, so we had to have a picture together.  

When we left, we hugged and I felt that I wished I could live near people who loved me like these friends.  Not that I don't have friends here, but these people know me better than most people here and they love me and are real with me.  They are fun, personable, and frank.  They are one of a kind!  My friend's SIL was there when I broke my foot in 2003, so we have a special bond, as well.  She is a Godly, encouraging person.  She prayed for me when I fell that July 4th and stayed with me until someone else showed up to help me.  I will never forget that!

The kids were sweet, but the ride home was, as usual, a trial.  For a good portion of the trip, I sat with two boys in the middle seat so #2 could sit in the front with Dad and #3 could have the back seat to herself.  Needless to say, as good as the trip is, the homecoming is very good as well.  My sweet, happy doggie (happy because she had her special friend visit her instead of being boarded) was waiting for us.  She is curled up next to me right now.  

Here are some pictures that I wanted to share.....

The ride home:

R and R posing for a picture:
This is a fine-feathered friend that I met on the "bayside" up in a tree.  He let me know he was there and let me take some shots.

We (hubby, FIL, #2, and #4 and I) went catching crabs on the beach late the last night.  It was SO much fun, but I wish I had video.  It was too dark.  The kids were so funny running to catch them and then dancing (to get away from them) when they let them go.  YIKES!  They do pinch, not that I got close enough!
Hubby and #1 doing what they love even though they didn't catch anything except a pelican (long story - don't worry, they got the bait out of its mouth so Mom (I) wouldn't start crying).

My sweetie and me (this is my favorite picture in a LONG time - maybe 20 years).  
This is my beautiful, sweet, unique little girl!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The "burg"

At #4's school, there is a tradition for 4th graders the week before Thanksgiving.  They reenact colonial times complete with costumes, sets, and small short skits.  They have a inn/tavern, a church, a print shop, a schoolhouse, a courtroom, etc.  The kids work very hard learning lines and acting their parts.  The parents and entire school goes through the different scenes and hears the short little skits that they perform.  I have to say that my #4 was the cutest little narrator imaginable.  He can be see dressed up on the right side of my blog, but here are some other pictures.  I had a great time helping out and enjoyed being at the school all day.  It was an exhausting time and the kids were antsy in-between performances, but they did their best.  At one point, I corralled the kids onto the floor and had them doing stretches and deep breathing.  When the student teacher walked up and asked what they were doing, they said, "We are doing our yoga."  Not exactly, but it was an attempt to calm and relax them in-between performances. (I hope no one minds me sharing a few pictures.)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Become as a child.....

God loves children, there is not doubt!  Me too!  In Luke 18:17 Jesus says that for us to enter the kingdom of heaven, we must become as a child.  There are things I don't like children, though.  In thinking on this, as I teach ESL, I find more and more my students to be the perfect mix of adults and children.  They are children in adult bodies, if you will.  I love that they are new, see things in a fresh way, think in an idealistic way, love to have fun,  and don't mind becoming a little childish in order to learn new things.  They don't always have the "pat" response that I am expecting and often like to shake things up.  Once with two different classes, when they saw the word "throw" and were asked to put the particle with it (that defines what you are going to do - like in, out, away, etc.) they said "throw up."  I found it very funny and we laughed together.  This is something a child would do.  Also, they like to make jokes, even in dark, unusual ways.  For instance, one time, my student made a sentence with hang up (again an excercise on two-part verbs) to say, "My friend hang up himself."  I told him he was into "black comedy".  Of course, first I had to make sure he was kidding - he was!  We laughed together.  We tell them children's stories, we recite phonic poems for children, we use "baby" or "milk" Bible verses.  But it is fun and I love it.  I love that they are independent, thinking adults, but also are children in many ways.  

So, what did Jesus mean?  I think he meant a lot of things, but one thing he might have meant is to be teachable, leadable.  My students are very teachable.  They are sponges looking for the newest "slang", the unknown vocabulary, the cultural things we take for granted.  They love to learn.  And in the right context, kids love to learn too.  Most American adults are too complacent.  They are not looking to learn from those around them.  They think they know it all, that they don't need help.  I find it very refreshing to be around people who are so eager for life and especially learning.  They make my life richer for being in it!  People lately tell me that I light up when I talk about ESL or the students.  I light up because they light up my life a little. They are a very special segment of our society.  I am thankful that God placed this in my heart and life.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

These years in experiences so far with raising teens

The years in-between being young and being old are times to build a career, raise teens, settle down, and find out what you are made of.  If your marriage makes it through the "baby years", then you have the years of raising teens to look forward to.  It is not fun at times.  You lose all sense of control, you have almost no brain cells left (or at least you might feel that way), and the hours of sleep might just be less then when the kids were babies.  It is not that you can't leave them awake and go to bed, but you probably won't sleep much for hormones (your own) and worry about the teens in your life.  I always thought that my kids would be different, that my kids would not be typical teens and would give me little cause to worry.  Even without drugs, alcohol, and sex, there is the tension over homework, messy rooms, chores not done, relationships with siblings, and a various array of everyday "little foxes".  I do thank God that my kids are not into drugs or overly interesting in the opposite sex (at least for now) but it seems that there are a lot of things that could be better.  God is faithful, though, and there are moments where I truly see His love shining through my kids (and even me).  I am grateful for the years I had with my kids homeschooling when there was very little involvement from anyone but me.  They had friends, but it was up to me to drive them or arrange for them to be together.  They had outside experiences, but it was me that arranged them and saw to it that they were where they needed to be.  The choice I made then now affects the way we relate to each other.  My teens are closer to me than if they had been in school.  I am confident of that.  Although I look at them not having "bookoodles" of friends somewhat as a negative, it isn't always.  When I worried aloud to our youth pastor about my teens trying drugs and such, his reply was that they would have to have friends who would introduce them to it.  Although they do have friends, they aren't the focus of their lives.  And their friends are not at school, and mostly not of the "worldly" type.  I thank God that I am such an influence in their lives.  I know it will change as for now they are not driving.  However, they all like being home. They don't have desires to get out and experience the world the way some their age crave experiences like that.  Maybe they are comfortable here.  Maybe too comfortable here, but I am convinced it is not all bad.  

I pray that I am doing SOME things right now, but as for the past, I don't regret homeschooling. I feel that I was doing what God called me to do.  I also feel that when I put them in school, I was again being obedient.  God will meet me and do the rest.  I pray not to lose one of them to the world.  I pray for wisdom.  Praying and doing what I know to do is all God asks.  I am sure we all make mistakes.  I pray that the mistakes I make with my kids will "all come out in the wash".  

Saturday, November 8, 2008

A Modern Family

I so wish I had a picture to share with you on this one, but sadly, it would have been wrong to share a picture of a complete stranger's family on my blog.  Here is the best I can do for a word picture.  This was the scene in Panera at the table next to us.  Two "young adult" women each with a laptop (visibly related to each other - had to be sisters) with (no doubt) their mom each involved in their own activities.  I saw the sisters completely engrossed in their 'puters with the mom getting up periodically to refill the soup bowls, beverages, etc.  For example, she would buy a quart of soup and divide it between the three of them.  The mom was very touching in her care of these two girls who were clearly accepting the care, but not really acknowledging her.  I felt that this was a family who loved each other, despite their somewhat self-absorbed existence.  It seemed that they could have been in separate places or even in their own home with little or no contact, but they chose to be together at one table, being together nevertheless in a very interesting way!  In all fairness, maybe they were college students who needed to study and this was the place to do it with high-speed Internet - who knows the situation.  I just found the whole scene very indicative of our society today.  In light of that, let me sign off the blog, shut down the computer and at least enjoy the movie with my children (grin)!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The Election

Our election tradition is to print out a map, color in the states red and blue as the numbers come in.  We added one little piece of adding up the numbers of the electoral college votes this time.We try to make it a "party" atmosphere, getting the kids to have fun, get involved, and enjoy themselves.   My kids did marvelously in understanding the logistics of the election for president.  I am proud of them for getting involved.  Each of the three younger kids "voted" electronically at their school.  The school votes in and counted were for McCain.  However, we are in a very middle-class conservative area that hasn't been largely hurt by the economy.  

The fun is over, though.  It is 9:10 by my computer clock and the kids are finally all in bed or headed there shortly.  The TV stations are saying they are pretty much sure Obama will be the next president. God is in control!  I feel confident that He will make his purpose known.  He will sustain us and love us and take care of us, no matter who is in the White House.  Maybe for God, this is not such a big thing?!  

Monday, November 3, 2008

This weekend - Friends and Family

This weekend, I was very privileged to be a part of my niece's Christening.  We are not Catholic, but we felt that we wanted to go to support her decision and be a part of her life and especially the lives of her children.  

We had such a great time.  My tiny niece was so beautiful in her gown.  I can't even describe it!  She was so sweet.  TJ, the two-year-old brother, was equally handsome in his little vest and tie.  S. and her husband are charming, handsome and fun!  We had such a great time with them.  I also enjoyed being with her "in-laws" and my parents.  Everyone was happy, full of good food, and getting along marvelously.  

We also were able to attend the church I grew up in as a child.  The pastor that is there now was our pastor in MS in our tiny little church where we attended as very young marrieds.  We had our oldest while he was there.  It was so good to see them and hear him preach.  

Also at church were a couple old (long-time) friends that I enjoy seeing.  One of them is one of my very loyal blog-readers.  She told me how much she enjoys reading it and keeping up with us.  She is probably my "longest" friend.  She and I have been friends since we were about 2 or 3 years old.  (Notice I didn't say "oldest" since she and I are just about the same age.) It was very sweet to see her,chat with her, and give her a hug.  Of course, there were long periods when we didn't have very much contact, but now I can see her when I go "home".  She is the same. Hopefully I am too.  Hopefully we haven't changed very much.  I feel very satisfied that God gave me some very rich experiences this weekend to look back on.  I am so grateful for His kindnesses to us this weekend.

Since we traveled back last night and got home about 8:30, I am still trying to get into the swing of Monday morning.  Three of the kids are off to school (#4 has a rash and will need to see the doctor this morning), the washer and dryer are going strong, the piles and piles of laundry are waiting to be cycled through.  It is a typical Monday for me.  But, the house is pretty quiet and I will be enjoying getting things back in order for a busy week.  Today is my big sigh after a weekend on the road.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

My ESL friends

In the process of volunteering at Hunter Street Baptist Church's ESL program, I have bonded with some of the students, of course, but the students in this type of ESL program easily move from one type of life to another. One minute they are just arriving and know no English, the next they are seeking jobs and getting into culture and language even more.  The ones that stay are those with young children or those that work somewhere or time that they can continue to come to classes during the day.  Or the wives of working men that can afford to stay at home.  Anyway, you get the point.  There is quite a bit of coming and going.  And because I am in and out of different classes, I am getting to know a lot of the students, but none "deeply".  But I do love them.  Anyway, this year, the bonding I have done has been more with the teachers.  I got to know the "hostess" who welcomes everyone, tests and places our students, and organizes a lot of other things like copies, snacks, etc.  She is very sweet and fun.  I have also gotten to know the "coordinator" who was a missionary and school music teacher, loves music and is a whiz at teaching, and organizing all the classes (finds teachers and substitutes).  She is also the leader at "break time" when we sing sweet funny songs, spend time with each other, and have snacks. There is the English whiz and former high school teacher who loves grammar and phonics (and the students, of course) and is very gifted in the advanced class.  There is the former kindergarten teacher who loves and nurtures the beginners.  I also can't forget the young Indonesian mommy who helps in every way and every thing.  And also, the "assistant" in the beginner's class who plays with babies, sits patiently beside one older lady helping her understand, and supports in a lot of other ways.  So, you see, these people have really filled my heart with love for themselves and for the students that we teach.  They are special, special people who all have a distinct place to fill.  And, most important for me, they have welcomed me with open arms even though I don't go to church there.  In the beginning, many thought I did.  They would say stuff about Sunday morning as if I was there.  However, now that they know I don't, they are still ready to accept me for who I am.  They are loving, kind, encouraging, complementary, and full of the Lord.  I so appreciate them.  And I appreciate the fire God has lit in my heart for internationals, for you see, I now know what I want to do "when I grow up".  I want to teach ESL.  I want to be a part of peoples lives who were not born here, but chose to be here.  I am sure there are things they don't like about our country, but they have a innocent, fresh perspective.  And I enjoy learning to see things from someone else's eyes.  So, thank you to the people who make ESL at HSBC a great place to love, learn, and build friendships!  And, as a side note, thank you to my sister who encouraged me to get involved in an ESL program.  

Monday, October 27, 2008

Vintage, Creepy, Beautiful Good Time

The weekends are a time to recover.  And for my husband and I, it is a time to nurture our relationship the way we can't during the week.  Every Saturday night, almost without fail, my husband and I go for our date night.  Last Saturday, we left not really having a purpose for where we were going.  Finally we settled on going to Sumo's for dinner.  On the way to Sumo's we were surfing the web on spouse's blackberry and I remembered this event at the Alabama Theatre downtown.  The event was a silent movie with organ accompaniment.  So, we head off downtown quite late for us (the movie was to start at 8:00).  I was excited driving up to the old theatre seeing the old lighted sign.  We entered and saw some pretty strange characters dressed up in different ways.  There was one haunt creeping around behind posts and lurking around.  I am easily spooked so I made sweetie go with me to the restroom (well, not with me, but to that area - you know what I mean).  The thing is, this old movie palace really played into the whole night.  It is beautiful, but in a creepy, forgotten, out of the way kind of way. For instance, you have to go down a set of stairs to the bathroom into a hidden area of the theatre in the basement.  Anyway, we found our seats, enjoying the heavy organ/screaming/rattling chains music.  The patrons continued to be seated and we continued to enjoy ourselves, talking and being together.  Maybe a little more together than usual in this setting on this night.  The stage was lit eerily green with a wind-blown gauzy backdrop.  There were tombstones scattered on it and the wonderfully ornate organ was prominently displayed.  At 8:00, the lights went out and the drama began.  Several haunts paraded down the aisle, the leading ones with huge and ornate candelabra.  They proceeded up onto the stage and rolled out a casket.  The casket opened and the occupant rose, "Dracula-style" from its depths.  The occupant was the organist who proceeded to take his place at the organ with the haunts slowly putting out the candles one by one with their bony fingers. The movie started (silent film version of Phantom of the Opera) complete with an hour and a half of (appropriate to each scene and situation) organ music.  VERY COOL!!  Of course at the end, the haunts came back with the coffin and escorted the organist away complete with a Red Phantom. The movie was very strange.  The story is much the same as the other tellings, but the actions are, of course, exaggerated and the actors were over the top in their facial expressions and make-up.  But, the setting, the music (especially the music) and the theatrics all went together to make it a very enjoyable evening, and particularly like no other evening.  During the summer last year, we went to the Alabama Theatre several times to enjoy classic movies and the organ concert before each one.  They were my favorite dates that we have ever had.  I loved the setting, the movies, and the company of my sweet husband.  But, this night surpassed them all.  We both had such a great time.  It was just my speed for creepiness (not the Saw V kind) but a vintage, beautiful kind of creepy good time!!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Things at home

Most of you know me very well and therefore know that I have four children.  They are 17, 14, 12, and 9.  So, I have three who are teenagers, or at least two "official" teenagers and one who is "hot on their heels".  Then I have a 9 year old who is at times a sigh of relief in our home and at other times, another emotionally complex being in our home.  

Emotionally complexity....that is some of what this entry is about. But, it is also about being together and quite simply, being a team.  Because I am trying to respect my children's privacy, I will not elaborate on what all the "insanity" is.  Just know that right now, our home is an emotionally complex place to be.  There are a few sane moments here and there, but mostly, we are very emotionally charged and that isn't always a good thing.  Even when things are good for one, that might mean that they are bad for another.  When one has a friend over, sometimes the others are very unhappy with that.  When one is doing well, another one is not and is not happy about it.  When one is getting attention, another one needs it and is letting us know.  So, we press forward, my husband and I "pooling" our saneness when we can and supporting each other in every way.  

Sometimes I feel that it is almost too much to expect everyone to ride in the car together or sit down to eat together.  I know, though, that the days of togetherness are short because the kids are growing up quickly, so I fight for the "team" every chance I get.  I fight for family outings, family dinners (with manners), family movies, and family devotions.  As we give some of ourselves to become a team, we become part of something bigger than ourselves - our family.  I believe in teamwork.  My family will fight me because they are each becoming their own person and I want that, but I also want them to continue to learn to give a little (or sometimes a lot).  Hopefully, we are finding a happy medium.  Meanwhile,  I hope I am not asking them to give up too much of themselves.  

Along those lines, last weekend, we were desperate to get our kids out of the house.  When we announced a family outing, our kids immediately started whining.  We almost gave up, but we pressed forward, making (and I do mean MAKING - for one of them physically) them go to a local preserve to walk in the woods for a bit and see the beautiful boulders there.  As we drove up, their complaining became very vocal.  But, again, we pressed forward. To sum it up, we ended up having a very blessed time running around, climbing (smaller) boulders, and watching the "pros" climb the really big boulders.  

Later that evening, we bought a "fire pit", ate supper around the fire and for a final touch, made s'mores in our backyard.  It made for a memorable day.  For the most part, they were cooperative (at least after the initial display of rebellion).  And everyone enjoyed it and had a good time.  AND, my fighting for the team turned out really well.  After the kids wandered off their different ways that evening, my husband and I felt very warm outside AND in sitting around the fire, enjoying the cool evening and braving the smoke blowing in our faces.  You, my dear reader, enjoy the pictures and have a good time in your family, fighting for the team!! 

Monday, October 20, 2008

ADHD - Staring into space

My #4 (who has ADHD), enlightened me during a recent car ride as to what he is doing while he is staring into space.  He says he is looking for tiny differences in things from one day to the next. Gee, nice to know there really is something going on in his brain!!  I always thought he was just "checking out" for a moment.  When my kids share something that is such a profound look into their mind, I am always ecstatic!!!   Especially right now with one child in the throes of adolescent change, I am comforted to know that in at least one of my children's minds, some little things make sense (at least to me).  Anyone confused?  Sorry!!!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Field Trip - Why I Go

Every time field trip days are planned, I am among the first to respond.  I almost feel that the children can't go without me.  Each time, as the call goes out for chaperones, I ask my kids if they want me to go.  They always do.  And, if they want me there, I am going to be there.  But, more than going for my kids, I get to meet other parents, talk to the teachers, and get a good picture of my child in and around school.  I feel that it is important that I know as much as I can about their school experience.  I feel that it makes me a better parent.  Yes, I am fortunate to be able to go.  I have no job to take off from.  I could also have kids who are embarrassed to have me around.  I am glad my kids want me there.  

Thursday, October 2, 2008

The Pain in My Heart

Right now, there is this low-level pain in my heart.  I feel it more deeply at some times than at others.  But, it doesn't really go away.  My child is being bullied.  All last year, he was subjected to teasing and heckling everywhere he went at school.  This year, although it continued, he chose to keep the horror of it from us.  As he held it in, he became distant, cold, difficult and angry.  Finally it all came rushing out.  As it came out, the guy that I know and love began to return.  He was back to hugging me and talking to me.  He was willing to work more on his academics.  He was not escaping so much with Legos and video games.  But, for me, the pain was just beginning. Before I knew what was going on, I was angry at him and figured that he was going through that growing up thing that can really sideline some kids.  I was a bit over the top with nagging him about his homework, lecturing him about all he was NOT doing, and trying to deal with a person I didn't know.  Now, I am trying to love him and heal him from almost a year of this torture and help him learn to make it quit.  I want him to deal with it himself, but mostly right now we are intervening by seeking the administration's help.  I am grateful for these people who love kids and want to help.  I just wish that we could have handled it ourselves.  Mostly though, my mind is caught up with how to make it stop and the WHY of it all.  Why would someone tease my child?!!  He is (to me at least) handsome, charming, sweet, moral, and up until now, a hard working student.  I don't deny that he is a "nerd".  He is smart and likes to talk about what he knows.  He is a bit awkward socially, a bit "aspergerian", although he does not have enough of these traits to be diagnosed.  But, I don't think he stands out that much.  But, when I have seen him at school, he seems to be not so different, but sort of in a bubble, socially speaking.  One step behind, one comment too random, one too many weird sounds or funny ways of doing things.  He knows he is different, but he is not willing to (or can't) conform in those tiny little things that everyone must conform in order to not stand out.  So, here I am overanalyzing the difficulty and hoping things change for him.  Last year, his one saving grace was that he loved his teachers and they, him.  This year, if anything, the teachers are a negative.  They are legalistic, strict, not encouraging, and sometimes taken to singling out kids to correct them in front of others.  This child, who gets along with adults much better than peers, is not getting along with the adults either.  Because of the pain he has endured, he is becoming prickly to everyone around him.  So, my solution is to pray and to love.   Mostly, though, it is to pray.  I know I can't change things for him.  Only God can do that.  And only God can change him.  Hey, maybe God can even change me in the process!!!  

Monday, September 15, 2008

On We Grow, Learning What We Can....

The school year has only just begun.  The kids are doing well, but not exactly happy.  I don't know how I feel.  I feel that some of the time, I need the freedom and am enjoying it.  Other times, I feel that I need to be with my kids and savor their time in my household.  They seem so grown-up and very close to leaving my "nest".  I know for a fact that one day I will be doing something else.  I know that I am in a "training" or "holding pattern" for now.  I am a minister to my children and "snatches" for other people such as my girls at church and the ESL students I teach on a volunteer basis. 

As far as my children, I feel that my time with them is significant for what they teach me sometimes more than for what I teach them.  But, I do hope that they are learning some skills that only maturity (NOT!!) or age can bring.  One thing that seems to be a recurring theme is "Never, never, never give up!!" Also, I hope they learn that life is not necessarily supposed to be fun. I hope they learn that a lot of times, the fun you have is while you are doing something that is fulfilling, often hard or even back-breaking "work".  That the times when you are happiest is when you are contributing to a bigger, greater good.  For me, that is the most important piece of sage advice that I can pass on.  I love them deeply, greatly and want they to be happy.  But their happiness will have to play "second fiddle" to developing them as people.  They MUST get this!!  They can and they WILL!!  And they must get that making others and God happy comes before pleasing their own flesh.  And when they please others and God, they ultimately please themselves.  That is TRUTH!!!  

So, for now, they stay in school, working hard, learning all they can about themselves and others.  They stay away from me 8-3 or so, and then the intense 3-8 time, I try my best to fit as much discipleship in as I can.  I try to encourage them get some chores done, along with the (at times) loads of homework they have.  I try to fit in family activities and a dinner together (not always).  And there does seem to be time for pure, unadulterated FUN!!  

Friday, September 12, 2008

Teacher Conferences

I had a conference with #3s teachers yesterday.  It is very hard to describe the emotion I felt leaving the meeting.  The tears wanted to pour out of my eyes, but I held them back relishing the euphoric feeling that was coursing through my body.  She is doing well!!  She is achieving beyond what I could have wished for.  She is amazing me and those who worked with her before.  And all of this is so "out-of-character" for her. 

To know how big this is for me, you have to know the background.  This is a child that seemed to have a moderate learning disability that was almost across the board.  The majority of her issues were in the areas of written expression, but she tested for learning disabilities also in math and reading.   Not only that, but there were some behavior issues that I didn't think she would overcome easily.  I thought we would always be afraid of how she was going to handle the next difficult thing that came her way.  Because of how she reacted to certain things in the past, we (teachers, husband and I) tried very hard not to rock the boat.  We tried to assess whether we could ask more of her.  We were careful that she not be asked to "carry" too much. But, she is amazing me beyond belief with what she has been able to handle this year:  rotating schedule, two lockers and combinations, seven teachers, keeping up with large amounts of homework, etc.  And, she is HAPPY!!  

I am blown away by God's faithfulness to me in caring for my child.  I don't know if it is anything short of a miracle!!!  Her reading, which at the end of last year was on a sixth-grade level, is now, in vocabulary and comprehension, post high school!!! Over the summer, she read voraciously and the best we could count, read about 20 books!!  The books that she found very difficult during the school year last year were her "bread and butter" reading material during the latter part of the summer and now!!  These are books she is "plowing" through quickly as we speak.  

So, we are moving her into advanced reading (this for a child who didn't read until 3rd grade), and out of academic support (her elective where she gets help with homework) into a regular elective track where she will get to try the classes that the other kids are trying.  Bottom line:  she will get to have fun!!  

She has also signed up for three clubs: scrapbooking, First Priority (a Christian club), and crochet/knitting.  This was the child who didn't want to do anything extra last year!!!  And despite the fact that she is "NOT!!!  sporty" (her words), she is enjoying P.E. and having fun with it.  To what do I attribute this success?  Her finding the right combination of teachers, support at school, and help at home.  And the hand of God in an awesome way to help her put all those pieces together in a way that cannot be explained by any other means.  

Thanks God, for overwhelming me with your kindness.  Words truly cannot express what I feel.  I feel very small and worrisome and yet, you care about those things.  You are loving me in a way that is beyond my expectations.  I am not saying that there won't be further trials with this child, but you will help us through until we see the light at the end.  Thanks God.  Thanks.

I called the conference a couple of weeks ago because she was not happy: complaining, frustrated, and sad.  I asked her to write down the things she didn't like about school in order of how bad they were. Here is her list: 
                             1. Science is all in groups 
                             2. Too much homework
                             3. Girls are mean
                             4. I have no friends in school except for a few.
                             5. Academic support is boring
                             6. U.S. Studies - too many quizzes
                             7. P.E. is hard because I'm not!!! sporty.
                             8. Language Arts is hard because of writing.
                             9. I hate Math!
Lots of these things have not changed, but she is handling them.  She is dealing with school and doing much better about everything.  Her "case manager" asked me to have her list 10 things she likes about school.  So, we were walking one day and I asked her about doing that.  She said that she didn't know if she could come up with 9, but she knew 7 right away.  Her seven were her teachers!!  She is willing to put up with the things she can't change because she is "feeling the love" from her teachers.  She is "clicking" with them and they with her.  Again, thanks be to God!!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Hippies, pregnant teachers and more

This is an older post that I felt was pretty good.  I didn't post it immediately....not sure why, but it seems good, looking back on it.  I think it still applies.  I hope you get something out of it.  It makes me step back from the day-to-day struggles and see my kids for what they are:  AWESOME!  Of course we have our moments, but I thank God for giving me the grace to look above or around or beyond the craziness of the hard days to the great things He is teaching us (but mostly me).  Ok, I will pipe down and let you read for yourself.  Here it is:

When my kids were "wee ones" I never thought I would be discussing the things that we are discussing here lately and getting as "in depth" as we are!!  We can no longer confine the conversation to the "pretty" or "sweet" side of life.  There are lots of things about hippies that I would rather my kids not dwell on, such as drug use and "free love", but I do want them to know the truth, so we discuss these aspects (with some picking up more than others, of course).  I also stressed that everyone that is called a hippie is not really a hippie.  The next topic we covered is how sometimes pregnant teachers are grumpy because they are hormonal.  That was a "mind-full" for the pre-pubescent or post-pubescent boys that I am raising, I am sure.....but it is true and I want them to know that those things are a part of life.  I told them that they might not remember this, but when I was pregnant, I wasn't very nice to be around sometimes.  I told them that sometimes at night, I would cry because I had taken how I felt out on my kids.  That also was a lot of info for their minds.  But, we can't live in the past when things are simple.  Things are not so simple anymore.  But, I wouldn't trade these days for those.  They are just different.  The kids are growing up.  Their school days contain things that I wish they didn't, but, the kids are growing up to be people who (at least most of the time) filter what they think and what happens to them by what my husband, I, and even God says about it.  And for that I am grateful.  They aren't relying on "snotty-nosed kids" to tell them what's-what.  That is huge!!  For anyone with teens and tweens, that is so big and so wonderful that I can't even express it. So as they labor away with their mountains of homework, I sit here trying to express my pride in what they are becoming.  And I pray for grace for the days ahead, which will no doubt be tougher than these are!!   

Monday, September 1, 2008

More "perfect accessory" pictures

One more "perfect" thing....

The perfect playmate for a recently "displaced" two-year-old baby of one family is the older, wiser "baby" of another larger family!!!  

The perfect accessory

My sister is here to visit (or more realistically to flee the wrath of Gustav), along with my nephew and three week-old niece.  I have decided that the perfect accessory to any human - adult or child- is a well-loved and cared-for baby!!!!  My beautiful niece, has been the object of my obsession with picture-taking, along with the person who is holding her at the time.  Here is the proof......

Friday, August 15, 2008

"Dear Friends, Let Us Love One Another...."

Two of my very best friends here in town are Catholic.  I am fine with that.  However, in the past, I tried to ignore our differences.  We all love God, we all want to serve Him, we all want our kids to be raised right and to love God as well.  And because I love my friends, I tried to pretend that we all believed the same.  For me, it was easy to talk about God with them, to share my struggles and pray with them or for them when they had struggles.  In many ways, they are connected to me more than my Protestant friends.  They like the same things I like.  They appreciate my "job" more than people at my church.  They are strongly "pro-life" just like me, cherish children and are supportive of bigger families.  I find this refreshing in a culture where you are weird if you don't have those "1.2" children you are SUPPOSED to have.  Also, I enjoy their company.  They are funny, serious (when necessary), and focused on the same things I am.  But, I have to admit, they believe differently than me.  They are Catholic and I am not.  I was not raised that way and have no intention of converting.  I do respect their beliefs and don't ever want to "argue" or even "discuss" our differences.  But, in learning more about Catholicism, I realize that there are some very real differences.  And for me, it is a case of agreeing to disagree.  I love them deeply and want to embrace our "likenesses" and not our differences.  Hopefully they want the same thing.  I believe that we can all three say the Apostle's Creed and believe every bit of it.  I believe that all three of us know that it is our belief in God, confession of sin and just accepting Christ's sacrifice on the cross that "save" us.  

So, there will be no more pretending.  We can love each other with "eyes wide open", knowing that there are differences.  We can give a little and focus on the things we have in common.  And we can live a life of love as Christ asked us to.  For my example, in the Bible, Christ loved people and didn't try to point out differences.  He embraced all people.  That is what we must do.   One of my favorite scriptures is 1 John 4:7-8 (NIV)

 "Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God.  Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.  Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love." And there is more of course about His sacrifice on the cross as proof of His love.  (Read on when you have a chance.)  The point is that I choose love!!!  I hope you will too.  

And now for a prayer, "God, I pray that I will love as you have loved me.  I pray that my friends will sense that love and respond.  I pray that you will help me to focus on the things we have in common, and remember that YOU put us together.  You saw my needs (and maybe theirs) and put us together.  There is such a warm feeling knowing that you, with your gentle, loving hand, placed us in each other's lives.  Thank you Father, for the gift of my friends!!!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

For a Visit

Yesterday as I drove through the neighborhood, I saw a lady who looked like she was out running only she was stopped on the sidewalk pointing ahead of her.  I slowly rounded the corner and saw what she was looking at.  Right ahead in a neighbor's yard were four deer - two female and two fawns!!!  They were so beautiful and just gazing at us and the houses around them and occasionally eating grass.  As I struggled to find my phone and erase enough pictures on it to have room to take one, the deer startled and bounded off into the trees.  The day before, #1 and #4 said they had seen two baby deer while they were at school.  Since the schools are so close to us, they share the common woods, trails, etc. that run from one to the other, I am almost positive that these are the same deer.  We are adding to our list of animals spotted in  and around our neighborhood.  We have seen foxes, turkeys (mommys and babies) rabbits, (the usual) turtles, snakes, scorpions, a (dead) coyote, and now deer!!  We love this little extra that seeing something like that adds to our day.  But, sadly, we don't have a picture to share.  Maybe next time.  

The darling husband and I are walking at 5:00 A.M. several times a week, wishing to see some animals.  But, maybe it is too dark or (more likely) we are too loud talking and laughing while we walk to see animals.  Oh well, it is good for the health of our marriage and our bodies......

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Sweet One Straight From the Heart of God

Thought you would all like to see the new beautiful baby!!!  S. (my sister) had her Friday on a lucky day 8-8-08!!  She is gorgeous, looks like her mommy.  She was 6 lb. 9 oz. (three weeks early) but healthy and too sweet for words!!!  I was there in the delivery room when my sister had her fist baby (to be placed for adoption, a little girl, almost 13 years ago).  Now God has been good and given her a little girl to bless her life!!!  We love Meg and she is a part of our lives, but S. needed her very own little girl to love and care for.  After getting married to a wonderful man in 2005 and having T.J. two years ago, this has brought it all full circle!!  We are all so blessed!!!  And I LOVE babies, can you tell?!!

Friday, August 8, 2008

Day 1

The kids survived!!!  The first day is always a little rough.  Yesterday was no exception.  My garage door broke and my car was inside, so my kids had to all ride the bus.  That was fine except that the high school doesn't send a bus to our neighborhood.  We live within walking distance to the back of campus.  Anyway, his teacher offered to drive him home, saving me from borrowing a neighbor's car to go get him.  Also, the two in middle school came home a little "bruised".  They didn't find friends, yet.  #3 had a hard time getting her locker open, but amazingly, ASKED FOR HELP several times!!!  For her, this was major.  And when she didn't know where her bus was, her one male teacher helped her find it and walked her to it!!!  I was very proud of her.  That was a good first day.  #2, who had such a hard time last year came home and seemed okay, but was crying last night and this morning not wanting to go back.  My heart was breaking as I sent him off.  But, I walked them to the bus stop and his male hormones kicked in.  Not wanting the other middle school kids to see him teary-eyed, he perked up and acted fine.  So, I prayed and sent them on.  That was all I could do.  God will be with them.  I know that!!  And they have to learn to stand on their own two feet.  Besides, school does teach them responsibility and independence and all kids need that.  So, as much as I wanted to keep them home and hug them a little more I put them on the bus and felt relieved that they were, at least, putting on a good front for their friends.  

Wednesday, August 6, 2008


So, the kids return to school tomorrow.  Public school for the second year.  I was not sure I wanted to do that again.  It is easier than planning the year myself and taking complete responsibility for their education.  I am no longer so brave.  However, in some ways, I have to trust God more than I did when we home-schooled.  I have to pray more not knowing what they face or who they are with or what they are teaching them.  I hope it brings me closer to God.  Of course, as a Christian, I hope all circumstances bring me closer to God.  As I go to bed tonight, it is with prayers for their well-being.  I want them to be okay, happy, loved, and confident, but most of all, I want them to live their lives to let others see who God is.  I want for them to pass on their faith to others.  That is my deepest hope.  I want others to see a difference in my children.  I can only pray that happens.  For my kids:  "The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace."  

Monday, July 28, 2008

Friends from Asia

This weekend, the day we got home from Yellowstone, some friends came into town.  We were longing to see them and despite the laundry, the unpacking, the lack of food in the house, we were so excited that they were here.  They live in Asia, you see.  We met them at the University where we attended - never mind how many years ago.  We traveled with them, celebrated holidays together, enjoyed getting to know another culture.  They are now leading lives very different from our own on the other side of the world, but the definite connection is still there.  In my heart, there is a place for H. and C. and even their kids that can never be filled.  They are like family in a lot of ways.  We had a wonderful weekend with them and their beautiful daughters.  We shared memories, shopped, talked, ate, and attended church together.  The weekend went all too fast and they were gone to their next stop before flying home.  I figured that it was at least 12 years since we had seen them.  That was way too long!!  There were long years where we lost touch, not knowing exactly where they were.  I searched the internet, e-mailed anyone I thought might have contact, but to no avail.  Katrina (the storm) brought us together as H. began searching for news of my family to see how everyone was after the storm. Hopefully, we will see them regularly from now on.  They plan to visit the U.S. more often and we plan to visit their country.  We pray blessings on them and their family as they carry on with their lives.  We send them away again, hoping for time later.  If not here, then in heaven!!!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

More Pictures

Just one of the beautiful peaks in the Grand Tetons.

One of the wonderful spots to photograph in Yellowstone.
This is our coyote.  He looked rather gnarly and hungry.  I didn't want to meet him on the road.
The red fox we saw right in the Village near the General Store.
My honey fishing.
Just one of the many elk that we saw.  This was a younger bull, but we saw many with full antlers about 6 feet across!!!!  We also saw many herds complete with some babies.


There are not many places that two days after you get home, you are longing to go back.  This is how Yellowstone is, though!!!  We had such a great time.  We saw many, many animals, lots of interesting people and everywhere you look, beautiful, wonderful vistas.  I almost cry looking at the pictures because there is a longing to be there, to see the sights, to breathe in the fresh air.

 The whole time, we were on an animal chase.  We went to great lengths to see as many wild animals as we could.  The last afternoon, we got so many new sightings, we were amazed when we look back on it. 

 We had seen hoofed animals all week - elk by great numbers, bison in herds and alone, deer, maybe a moose or two,  and on horseback some pronghorn antelope.  The sight of a bear eluded us for days.  We went up north in the park especially to see bear.  Still no bear.  But the last evening, there was a small, cinnamon spotted black bear right by the roadside!!!  He or she was so beautiful and so close that we could have almost touched it.  It was feeding on a rotting tree and the grubs there, oblivious to the humans around it.  It came alongside our van and then crossed the road in front sending the people in the road scattering to get away.  After that, as "icing on the cake", we saw a coyote, and lastly right in Old Faithful Village where we were staying, a red fox!!  We were so excited to see the bear, but seeing all of these in one afternoon, we were well beyond excited!!  

There is no describing the feeling of seeing God's beautiful handiwork, so spread out for us to see, everywhere we looked, 360 degrees.  The "thermal wonders" are also magnificent, but seeing all of this in one park goes beyond what I can describe.  I have tried, but until you are there, you just don't know how it is.  Let's just say, if you have a "bucket list", this is a must-see addition.  

Alas, there is pain in going to such a special place, and that is in coming home.  We knew that this was a special trip that was well worth the work and time put in planning it, but that is was also a trip that wouldn't be repeated for a while and probably never again with all four kids.  But enjoy it we did!!

Friday, July 18, 2008

The Puzzle

This puzzle was meant to give me something to do with #1 during the summer.  He loves elephants and I thought we could do the puzzle and "puzzle-save it" and put it up in his room.  It started out everyone working on it, but at the end, it was me gnashing my teeth to finish it.  It was HARD and time-consuming.  Even the self-proclaimed "puzzle genius" (#3) gave up.  I was so glad to get it done!!!  And it is sooooo beautiful!!!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Early Morning Walk

Just a couple of pictures that #4 and I took on one of our early morning walks.  

Summer, part 3

Summer is winding down.  Even with all the activity and arguing and extra work, I long for this to go on.  The kids can stay up and enjoy extra outside play time, movies with the family, read-alouds, games, and time with us.  And I like them being here.  I rest better at night, feel more comfortable during the day, and like the extra time they spend with each other discovering new ways to make things.  They seem more relaxed and I am too.  But in three more weeks, summer will be over and we will be rediscovering what it means to get used to getting up on a schedule, coping with homework, and getting to know the new school situations.  I feel hopeful that at least for #2 and #4, it will be pretty easy and a smaller adjustment.  For the other two, not so sure.  They will be changing schools.  The big exciting news is that the teacher we loved so much for #3 will have #4 - for two years!!  I am looking forward to working with her again and letting her work her magic on his stubborn personality and brilliant mind.  We have kept up with her during the summer and are just thrilled to have her continue on "Team K."!!!  There are other people I got to know last year that I will enjoy seeing again.  The administrators (especially a couple special friends), the instructional support teacher that #3 had last year and this year will be working with #4, and some (a few) of the other moms that volunteer at the schools.  I also look forward to the new teacher #1 will have and what the bigger, more challenging environment will do for him.  So, if we can make it through the next six weeks, I will feel a lot more comfortable with what lies ahead for the rest of the year.  

Sunday, June 29, 2008

My Brother's Departure

As we prepare for my brother  and his family to return to the mission-field, I am feeling very glum and reflecting on their time here in our town.  It has been 11 years since we have been in the same town for a whole year and we have missed them.  

Our kids never really knew each other, but they have bonded.  The "cousins" are a great addition to our lives.  Previously, the times #3 and M.'s #1 have been together have been for short trips and quick family gatherings.  For this year, "the girls" were so totally in each others' lives, that they had their own ongoing games, their own "language", their own way of pretending, infinite sharing of books, and no - absolutely NO arguments.  Whatever their differences, the girls somehow find their own world where they agree on almost everything and enjoy each other's company so completely that no one else matters unless that someone is trying to separate them. 

For the boys on the other hand (speaking of my #4 and M.'s #2) they are hardly together on anything.  They can't agree on how to spend their time, what game to play or how to play it.  They irritate each other to the nth degree, but they have added to each others' lives.  They have taught each other the value of difference, but they never really figured out how to overcome them or give in enough to get along.  They have, despite their differences, enjoyed each other in some weird way and longed for each other.  It was just usually always a trial for the adult(s) caring for them.  

So for me, the change will be in two ways.  First, knowing that my brother (when he wasn't traveling), was only a couple of miles away.  There was comfort in that.  Second, for the change it will mean for my girl.  I weep for myself, but mostly for her.  She so bonded with her cousin that it will mean a sad change for her.  So, when the church had M. up for blessing and prayer this morning,  I was the only one weeping.  "M n M" feel very relieved to be going to where they "belong", to the place where God has called them.  The kids are oblivious, at least for the moment.  But I am sad.  So I weep.  I am sure that there are those who understand, but they are not immediately around me.  

This week, as they stay with us to prepare to leave, I determine to enjoy their company.  I promise to not think of the future and what it holds.  I will simply take deep breaths and stay calm, savoring the moments with them and the kids (even those of the two little boys arguing).

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Adding a little to the last post

Just one more little thought - As I have said, we do what we can to recycle and reduce, but Ted's Montana Grill (IMO) takes it a little far.....paper straws?!!!!  I mean, come on!!!! 


Cute movie.....but why, oh why does every little kid movie have to have SO much social commentary.  We know, we are FAT, LAZY, and put out a lot of TRASH!!!  We are dumb, but haven't forgotten how to read YET.  Can't movies just be fun, funny and even poignant, but not feel like a slap in the face.....

Ok, my "take home" is to do what you can....we recycle, try to not buy things we don't need or won't use, and we do turn off electronics for a good portion of the day (at least during the school year).  My kids read, two of them LOVE to read.  They are smart, verbal and think for themselves.  I can do better, maybe......

My review is two stars....cute, but could have been better.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Tent Camping with the Experts

This is us with our friends from TN.  We had fun camping for one night at a state park about midway between the two.  We LOVE the W's!!!  I actually can't wait to do this again.  J. was nervous the whole time that it would rain and I wouldn't have fun (I have some horrible memories of camping all the way to Maine - "a la" raining so much that everything floated, leaving the tent flap open and our bedding getting wet, vomiting in the tent, etc.)  The W's have all the equipment and are experts backpackers, campers and LOVE hiking.  We were kind of "along for the ride".......

Scavenger Hunt

This picture was for a scavenger hunt for our church.  We tie-dyed the shirts (the kids wanted the letters added but that was a little "Laverne and Shirley-ish").  We got extra points for having our Bibles.  No one really had fun but me!!!

The Three "I's"

This is a picture I have been trying to get for about a year since the baby "I" was born.  I found it very cool to have them all in this picture.  We went with "big I" on a mission trip in 2006 to Honduras.  They all go to our church and the "big I" and "baby I"'s parents are friends, but getting "my I" in was a challenge.....