Sunday, May 31, 2009

May 2009

The craziness that is the end of the school year will come to a close today with the celebration of Ethan's birthday party at the Greensboro Grasshopper's. The month of May is strongly competeing with December for the busiest time of year for our family. Actually, this year, I might say it superceded it on the stress meter. Here are a few highlights as well as some updates on where the kids are at this stage of their lives. post documenting my children therefore, parental bragging is inevitable. Proceed with caution.

Henry, my (step)brother, was married two weeks ago. I love his wife, Alana, and am thrilled she is a member of our family. My other (step)borther, John and his family arrived from East Asia for a two-month sabbatical from their lives as missionaries. It is awesome to have the family together agian after two years.

Each of my children had parts in the wedding. Ethan helped to distribute programs while Sadie and Lily were flower girls. All performed their duties well, but there were some very frustrating moments during the wedding ceremony. I was sitting on the front row with the girls waiting for my time as a reader. My girls just couldn't sit still and not talk. Right before I was to stand to read, Lily decided she needed to lay down on my lap and refused to sit up. I began to become frantic, but at the right moment she sat up so I could complete my role. However, as I was standing, Sadie decided to start crawling around on the floor, looking for a crayon. So, I did what every mom would do, start gently kicking her child to get her back up on the pew, all while reading the bible without a pause. After I finished, I sat down, turned to look at Jay who was a pew behind me. He saw the stress on my face and mouthed the words, "I am so sorry. I love you." At least he commiserated with me and my frustration. Thankfully, only those in the very fornt pew, containing family only, could see their constant state of movement and my "satanic-death-mean mommy" looks in their direction. I was the poster mom of how NOT to exhibit love in your facial expressions.

School ended on the 28th, also Ethan's 9th birthday. All the kids had great school years. I know that sentence doesn't really say much, but without a doubt we have been blessed with wonderful teachers every year.

Ethan: We struggled at bit, again, with responsibility this year. The year began with a long lecture about keeping up with his belongings. After the second day of school, Ethan lost his jacket. He did find it a few days later hanging over the stair railing at school. I did see a bit of growth in this area throughout the year, thank goodness. Yet, my little space cadet did lose his lunch box with a week left of school. He found it, however, as he walked by the humongous pile of lost and found on the last day of school. Seriously, that pile of clothing, bags, etc. could outfit another school. Incredible. This summer we will work on controlling our sensitivity and emotions, along with finding our self-confidence in who we are in Christ, rather than how the world defines us.

Academically, Ethan excelled. We never struggled with studying for tests or in homework and I am truly, truly thankful for that. He ended up with all As, and one B throughout the year. Ethan was particularly disappointed with the one B. He missed the A by one point and that one point prevented him from being on all A honor roll for the year. He is motivated for next year. He had a very detail-oriented teacher this year so I know he is very prepared for 4th grade.

At the end of the year, every child at HPCA is given an award. Ethan received the bible award which I assume had something to do with his 100 average in this subject. Maybe he is spouting off some sort of biblical interpretation and encouragment at school, too, I don't know. After receiving his award he announced to me that maybe he will be a preacher, too while serving as our nation's President. You go, Buddy! Ethan is learning how to discern good and bad situations, friends that are making good and not-so-good choices. His teacher told me that Ethan is very funny, sweet and a joy to have in her class.

When asked what he likes to do, Ethan answered playing with legos, playing the playstation and playing with his airsoft gun. He also enjoys reading and playing basketball. That last one is news to me.

Sadie: We saw a lot of progress in Sadie's behavior this year. There were times when she was 3 and 4 that I truly wondered if she would be able to actually exist in a classroom setting. Her choices in relationship to others and herself at those ages sometimes defied logic and were very concerning. Now, I sit here seeing a maturing little girl who still struggles with self-control and self-discipline at times, but more often than not is making good choices. One area in which Sadie seems to have no problems is responsibility. I never have to remind her to do her homework, or get her bags for the car in the morning. She just does it. We will continue to work on self-control this summer - in blurting out mean statements due to her own hurt emotions and in obedience to requests made of her.

Academically, Sadie ended up with all O+'s for the entire year - perfect marks. She received the National Fitness Award which was something I always wanted to receive, but never did achieve while I was in school. And, her end of the year award was for Art. I would say a very well-rounded child.

We went to the library this week. Sadie had ventured over to the paperback books. After a few minutes I checked to make sure she was alright. I was tickled to see her sitting in a chair, engrossed in a book. I so want my children to adore reading. Two down, one to go!

For the second year, Sadie had the same teacher. This teacher moved up from kindergarten to first grade and there were 4 kids who were blessed to have her for a second year. I give most of the credit for Sadie's growth to this amazing teacher. We have been simply blessed. After we left school on the last day, Sadie just cried and cried and cried because Mrs. Newell would no longer be her teacher. The rumor is that she is moving back to kindergarten and my prayer is that Lily will be assigned to her classroom next year!

When asked what she likes to do, Sadie answered playing in the pool, playing with mom, going to the creek to find crayfish and salamanders, drawing pretty pictures.

Lily: She remains the most loving child...constantly asking for snuggle, telling me how much she loves me, asking me to rub her leg, foot, arm, back, etc. Yesterday, after her gymnastics recital, she plopped in my lap and announced, "Mommy, I just can't stop loving you."

Lily has shown a lot of progress, particularly in the last couple of months in her fine motor skills. Her writing skills are now up to par for kindergarten and her coloring is much neater and in the lines. She loves school and was the only one of my children to respond with a "YAY!" when I announced I had purchased summer workbooks. The other two groaned, of course. She just loves school and that was one reason we decided to push her onto kindergarten next year, despite an August birthday. Speaking of birthdays, Lily has been discussing hers since last year. It has been heightened by the advent of Ethan's birthday this week. She has it planned to the last detail, including what she is going to wear.

Lily is working on her response to the word, "no" when stated by anyone other than herself. Right now, we are in a crying loudly phase. I have no doubt that we have indulged her a bit as the baby of the family. Even Ethan shares in the blame for this one as he will do anything to not hear her cry or have her rebuff him. Regardless, it is time to push her to grow up a bit this summer.

When asked what she likes to do, Lily answered doing crafts, go outside to play and swim.

Me: I will begin a new bible study this summer after nearly a two year absence from a formal study. It will be good to be back into the word, consistently after such an absence. The kids are signed up for several camps - soccer, scouts, dance, music camp and lessons, swim team, etc. And, we are all helping to serve at vbs that our church is hosting for a specific disadvantaged neighborhood. Ethan will have his first overnight camps this summer. First is weeblo/scout camp for three nights. In July, he will attend Lurecrest Camp for 5 nights. It makes me nervous for him, but there are two counselors from our church working there and I trust they will keep an eye out for him.

We joined the Elk's pool, finally, and I was thrilled to learn last night that they have wifi by the pool. Is it ridiculous to think I might get some writing done by the pool this summer? I am hoping to reconnect to my love of reading, too.

As far as my main writing is still that, a project. Writing took a back seat for the most part of May. I have four ideas floating around that I want to explore this summer, I am sure none to completion, but I am going to plow forth. 1) Jay's story for our children. From arriving in the U.S. with nothing, working fast-food jobs, to owning his own company 2) Writing about my mixed heritage background. This will require some investigation and interviewing, but there is a definite story here. 3) Ansley's journey from a sister's perspective. This is the one most likely to be completed in a timely manner as much is already written in the form of email updates. 4) Most compelling to me and the most difficult to write - my own journey in the search for authenticity and transparency.

Jay asked me last week, "So, what are you going to do in the fall when all the kids are in school?" That is a great question. I guess I have two months to figure it out!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

For My Lily...

"My Wish"
by Rascall Flatts
I hope that the days come easy and the moments pass slow,
And each road leads you where you want to go,
And if you're faced with a choice, and you have to choose,
I hope you choose the one that means the most to you.
And if one door opens to another door closed,
I hope you keep on walkin' till you find the window,
If it's cold outside, show the world the warmth of your smile,
But more than anything, more than anything,
My wish, for you, is that this life becomes all that you want it to,
Your dreams stay big, and your worries stay small,
You never need to carry more than you can hold,
And while you're out there getting where you're getting to, I hope you know somebody loves you, and wants the same things too, Yeah, this, is my wish.
I hope you never look back, but ya never forget,
All the ones who love you, in the place you left,
I hope you always forgive, and you never regret,
And you help somebody every chance you get,
Oh, you find God's grace, in every mistake,
And you always give more than you take.
But more than anything, yeah, and more than anything,

My wish, for you, is that this life becomes all that you want it to,
Your dreams stay big, and your worries stay small,
You never need to carry more than you can hold,
And while you're out there getting where you're getting to,
I hope you know somebody loves you, and wants the same things too, Yeah, this, is my wish.

My wish, for you, is that this life becomes all that you want it to,
Your dreams stay big, and your worries stay small,
You never need to carry more than you can hold,
And while you're out there getting where you're getting to,
I hope you know somebody loves you, and wants the same things too,
Yeah, this, is my wish.

This is my wish
I hope you know somebody loves you
May all your dreams stay big.
Lily, you are growing too fast for me. Please slow down for just a second and let me breath in all of what you are at this moment. Our days of paling around, you as my little tag along buddy are nearing an end. Did I enjoy every second with you? Did I suck all the kisses and hugs I could manage to wrangle? Did I give you everything you needed? I tried, little Lovey. I did.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Be Still My Beating Heart...

I have been listening to some long ago forgotten CDs which I discovered while cleaning out for market. One is Field's of Gold, a great one by Sting. I have the warmest, in a literal and figurative sense, memories of this CD, driving in my '87 Honda Civic to Myrtle Beach over Spring Break during my senior year of high school. There is a stretch of back logging roads along that route that during April and May is simply stunning. Both sides of the road are covered with the most ultra bright and fresh green grass fields and wild flowers. There was a heightened sense of freedom during this particular drive and I assume it was youth, the end of high school and unlimited possibilities all coming to a head. Years have passed, 20 to be exact, and I have driven that street to the point where I could nearly do it blindfolded. Everytime though, I think of that one specific trip and my friend, Debi, whenever I hear the CD or drive that route.

As I busied myself around the house this morning trying to recover from the tornado of activity that accompanied a family wedding weekend, one particular song stood out - "Be Still My Beating Heart." As I listened and sang along to the lyrics, a line, much familiar to me, stood out: "And, I wriggle like a fish caught on dry land." I found myself sinking into a bit of a melancholy place. The song continues further..."I sink like a stone that's been thrown in the ocean. My logic has drowned in a sea of emotion." I can't say what Sting meant by those words, but I inserted it into my own life and well, just didn't like the outcome.

Maybe it is mid-life. Maybe it is that my youngest child is leaving for kindergarten in August. Maybe it is that life doesn't seem to hold to have as much...what is the word I am looking for - purpose, meaning, fulfillment? Possibly? Not sure that is it. It does have meaning and purpose, it just lacks focus, lacks a clear path at the moment. My brain holds years of biblical study that gives me the answer to all of this. Yet, I am tired of trying to keep it at the forefront. My emotions are simply drowning me and I think that the life preserver with my name on it lingers just out of sight. If I could only see it, touch it, and thrive because of it.

Maybe this is what happens when you decide to stop working for perfection and give it all up to simply live freely. I mean, while running on that comfortable and well-worn performance treadmill, I was solidly focused. Albeit it was a terribly never-ending and unreachable focus, but a focus nevertheless. Now, I am in limbo between two worlds, not feeling at home in either and certainly not where I currently reside. In fact, I feel a little lost in my freedom. Isn't that interesting. If none of this daily grind (you know, the mundane) really matters, then what in the world am I doing every day? My life seems to be nothing but mundane. Sigh. Not a good day for me and it was particularly punctuated by cleaning the kitchen, folding laundry, dealing with a landscaper, taking a trip to Costco, the dry cleaners, picking the dog up from the vet, taking Jay his suit to work, taking Lily to gymnastics, picking up kids from school while listening to music that makes my skin crawl, checking homework, listening to reading, preparing for scouts, fixing and cleaning up after dinner, hauling kids to scouts, teaching 7 girls about geology (as if), and getting kids baths/ready for bed with a book and snack. When will this discontentment stop?

Lord, be still my anxiously beating heart...

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

I received an email from a good friend in regards to my post, Forever Young. My friend wrote very clearly what I have been feeling:

Been there, done that, felt the same abandonment - back here, keeping all the plates spinning, making everything "look right" on the outside, being everything to everyone. Can I possibly be the same person now that I was then? Is the same me still inside? There are days when that voice of wanderlust is still and quiet, but many days when she is screaming at me to get up and go. But I remember that I'm the responsible one now, the one with commitments and schedules, the one with too many people dependent on me.

Do I miss that life? - yes. Am I happy with my life now? - yes. But above all, I'm grateful God gave me those years to wander and roam His fabulous world. It gives me depth and perspective now which hopefully makes me a better wife, mom, sister, person, etc ...

I have done a bit of thinking about what I am teaching my kids. Are we enjoying life, amidst the routine and jobs. Or, am I so focused on performance and responsibility that it is completely overshadowed. I mean, does it really matter if the laundry sits on the table for one more day or if their rooms are messy more days than clean? What are we doing every day to enjoy what God has given us?I agree that voice is louder on some days than others. I guess it is screaming at the top of my lungs at the moment. Now, what to do with it....

Monday, May 11, 2009

Forever Young

Continuing with the age of innocence theme...I started thinking about a time in my life when I had no cares, no worries, no stress. Did I ever just take off, not worry about plans, tasks undone and responsibilities?

My memories of such a time in my life have been jolted in the last day or so. My dearest friend Niels has shown up on facebook and along with him are the memories of the best trip I have ever taken. Without him, my first trip to Africa would not have happened. I had no business, no rational reasoning to go there. I was 22, had no job, very little money, no concrete plans for the future, and now that I think about home to even call my own. Yet, I took what little money I had, wrapped up my year of living in the Netherlands, packed a suitcase and headed out to Zimbabwe with him and another friend for a month of ridiculous abandonment, choices that would shock even the wild at heart, and enjoyed life in all its hilarity, love, and adventure.

At the beginning of the trip we stayed with Niels' parents who were living in Harare, Zimbabwe. Then we took off, backpacking our way through South Africa, Botswana, Zambia, returning to Zimbabwe. We began the journey on a train still emblazoned with its Rhodesian logos from the colonial days. There were no concrete plans, no reservations made, no tickets purchased. Therefore, the trip included walking, hitchhiking (yes, hitchhiking in the middle of nowhere), school bus-type transportation, a plane (Air Botswana) and the back of a pick-up truck for 7 hours. We mostly tent camped with a brief reprieve at some friends of Niels' parents. We ran out of local currency, yes, money. We opted to eat only a pack of mints in order to drink a Zambezi, saw elephants from 100 feet, got chased by monkeys, saw the "last Eden on earth," ate impala schnitzel, had some digestive issues, took outdoor showers, went to a few discos, held snakes, drove on the "wrong" side of the road, met a real mercenary, made a missing persons report to the police, saw one of the 7 wonders of the world, visited a country in the midst of enormous change and hope, got lost, laughed, cried (maybe that was just me) and LIVED.

It was during this part of the trip when my eyes were opened to how most of the world lives. It was during this part of the trip that I felt I was truly living, sucking every ounce of emotions and experiences from every day. It was during this trip that I felt the most confidence in my abilities to handle anything that came my way. I am forever indebted to Niels for inviting me to tag along on such a life-altering trip.

My heart sinks when I read about the calamity that has befallen Zimbabwe. A country of such promise in the early 90s, now racked with scandals, political destruction and the AIDS epidemic. I wonder what the slums of South Africa have become since the fall of apartheid, as we saw the hope in the eyes of the people of that country only 6 months after it was abolished. I don't know anyone who has ever been to Africa who wasn't deeply moved by the tension between beauty and despair. It is a continent that quickly creates passion and carves a lasting mark in the hearts of every visitor. A place that exists, defying the odds on so many levels. I know there is a little hole in my heart created by the piece I left in Africa over 14 years ago and made larger by a second trip 6 years ago.

My second trip was much different - a missions trip to Ghana. I loved every minute I was there and I long for more of it. I dream of once again holding the little orphan girl in Ghana in my arms while the harmonic sounds of the orphan choir sing praises. I never think about those places without believing one day I might return on a more lengthy basis. How, where and why, I do not know.

Until then, I will think about how life has propelled me to lose some of that spontaneity and become the uber responsible, somewhat fearful, worried, self-doubting mom and wife. I think it is time to reclaim that independent and adventurous girl from 1994. Today, it is never too late to be...Forever Young.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Blue Hour

The term "blue hour" comes from a French expression l'heure bleue, which refers to twilight, the period each morning and evening where there is neither full daylight nor complete darkness. The time is considered special because of the quality of the light at this time of day and because this is often when the smell of the flowers is at their strongest. In literature, this term often symbolizes a period of innocence.

My vision of the blue hour is the very first light of the morning which creeps its way through the windows, the trees outlined starkly in contrast to the cool and yet, comforting blue hues in the sky. I saw the blue hour this morning as my youngest crawled into bed with me. It was a rare night of musical beds. Though everyone began in their own beds, in the morning I found myself in Sadie's bed, Sadie was on her trundle bed and Lily was in my bed, until she sought me out once again this time in Sadie's bed. I remember when the musical beds game was routine for us, over 2 years ago. That is one rite of passage I am glad is pretty much behind us.

As Lily crawled in behind me in Sadie's white sleigh bed, I gazed through the white wooden blinds. I thought about that "period of innocence" so perfectly on display by the azure sky this morning. My Lily will graduate in a couple of weeks from preschool, marking the end of one title I have held for 7 years, "Mom of a Preschooler." But, in the last couple of weeks she has met the world in all of its rudeness head on. Another child laughed at her, remarking that she has crisscrossed eyes, giggling at her glasses. Lily ran to me, crying at the hurt she just experienced. It was her first insight into being different. It was her first introduction that something might be wrong with her. It was her first experience that others can simply be mean. My heart rushed to comfort her. I was stunned at the cruelty of another child at such a young age. But, I remained fixed and focused on healing her hurts. As I wiped away the tears, I wanted to wipe this encounter away from her memory as well. The impact of this moment did not escape me. It was the dwindling of her innocence, the end of the blue hour.

The days go by slowly, but the years are flying by. More times this year than ever, I have had older mothers and grandmothers tell me to cherish these times, each and every day. Their advice is given at random in the grocery store, at the park, at school. Sometimes it seems I am scrambling, a day late in capturing and holding onto those moments. School work comes home in droves, showing the progression with the ages. Lily can now write several words and seems to amble around, paper and pen always toted along with her. Sadie is completely immersed in some serious chapter books, but still devotes energy to catch lizards along the driveway and crayfish in the creek. Ethan is plotting his 9th birthday party and prospective gifts. We spent time today putting together the Mouse Trap contraption in the game with the same name. He never fails to be appreciative of the undivided time I give to him.

Similar to the incident with Lily on the playground, I see the bits of innocence being chipped away from all three of my children. As they age, their exposure to the world increases, and their sense of security will inevitably decrease. I hope and pray that their hearts will remain full of optimism, courage, creativity, confidence, self-assurance; in the light of l'heure bleue.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Every Day

A family I am very loosely connected with has had the unthinkable happen...the loss of a child, age 7. To me this is cruelest of circumstances. My own feeble mind cannot wrap itself around this devastation. My own grief at the loss of my sister seems to pale in comparison to what it would be like to lose one of my own brood.

Life was pretty darn easy for me prior to Ansley's illness and passing. Then, very suddenly, everything was turned upside down and I found myself in self-preservation mode. I might add that I failed miserably living in that mode, too. We weren't created to self-preserve.

As a result, I have lived through extreme grief and continue to exist in a milder form of it. I believe that it will be my companion, albeit a little one, for the rest of my life. The ebbs and flows of grief are like the tides. Somewhat rhythmic and predictable like the calendar, yet are not even in their size or timing. Sometimes you feel as if you have just recovered from the last wave only to be blindsided by the next one. To know that this family is at the beginning of this new way of existing, this new family dynamic and to know what suffering is before them brings me to my knees. I am not yet to the point of being able to comfort someone freshly grieving as it is still too fresh in my own heart.

And yet, there is hope. Hope that is infinite and eternal. A hope that never changes, that never fades. In the perfect storm of pain, anguish, grief, evil, God is all we have to cling to. Nothing, I mean nothing in this world is more solid, reliable, comforting, and loving than our God.

I have mentioned in a previous post my dislike for the phrase, "God only gives us what we can handle." It is not biblical scripture and though I understand the intent, it is opposite of one of my favorite verses. "I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me." My belief is that God does bring more to us than we, on our own, can handle because it is Him that gives us the strength to do it. His purpose at all times is to grow us in unbelievable places. It is to pull us and stretch our faith. It is to bring us to a point where they only solution is to turn to Him. It is at that point of complete surrender that we hear His loving words, His wooing us to Him. It is that gentle nudge that leads us to want more of Him and less of this world.

Life on this terra firma is brief, a blink of an eye in relationship to eternity, ending often without warning. Yet, even in times like these, where the worst fears of a parent are realized, I find comfort in knowing God is completely in control of it. He has a plan for each of us, a job if you will. That job is involves both our internal - our spiritual growth and our external - the impact we have on others. For some, that plan is complete in just a few short years. For others, it will continue until we are old and gray. Until that work is completed in us, we remain here as workers for Him.

For this family and their will go continue forward. It will be painful to watch the lives of others continue, appearing to be unaffected by the the loss they are experiencing. My heart wants to tell them...Don't ever discount your grief. Don't ever compare your grief to others. Don't begin to think that you are not normal in your grief cycle. God knows our sorrows, our tears, our pains, our hurts. He is big enough to carry those burdens and He is big enough to take our anger. Give it to Him. Every day.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Count your blessings...once again.

I have been very removed from the blog as shown by the lack of any posts in the previous 3 weeks. I have been writing, but it has been more for the project than the blog. In returning to my normal rhythm of life after market, it seems very appropriate that I begin again with what I should do more often than not - count my blessings! Here we go:

1. First Anniversary of the company! Exciting because a) we are still in business and b) we have employees, good employees and c) I have been able to step away from the company and focus my attention on the children, house and all the comes with it.

2. As I type this, I am sitting on my deck, in the warmth of the sun, with a breeze that is delightful. I can hear my littlest one giggling with a friend with not a care in the world. In 3 short months, she will enter kindergarten. My time is short, so I will soak up every minute with her.

3. My entire family will be together in two weeks. It has been over 2 years since this last occurred. Weddings tend to force these visits. I can't wait to meet my nephew for the first time.

4. The ability to cook meals again. We ate out a lot while living in the basement. Not only is it not healthy, it gets very old, very quickly. It is great to pour over my cookbooks, plan, calculate, and make lists of love for my family.