Friday, February 29, 2008

Can life get any. . . life-ier?

Know what I did tonight?
I played poker with my nine year old.
Now, before you get all lathered up about what I'm teaching the boy, I'll have you know he was teaching me. I've never played poker in all my . . . well, many years.
He came home from school with this newfound knowledge earlier in the week. What?! I'm sure poker fits into a classical education somehow, right . . . No, actually his friend taught him.
What?! I have to worry about this now . . .
Although I am reticent about my child participating in such a "worldly" past-time, after a thorough moral lesson on the evils of gambling, we sat right down with a bowl of peanuts and pistachios between us and cut the deck.
It was so much fun.
I suspect we are not playing it entirely correctly, but oh well.
It was good to sit and relax and get my mind off of everything else that is going on, and to be able to spend time with my boys while doing it.
I've been a bit stressed today.
We signed the contract for our house, and barring any unforeseen circumstances, it is officially sold.
We also looked at some houses today, and we spent a lot of time at one in particular that we've had our eye on since we put our house on the market almost a year ago. It is not my "dream house"; I can be realistic about that. But I think it could be. It is a nice house, a light house, a peaceful, friendly, inviting house with lots of yard and land for the three boys to fight pirates and ride horses and conquer Rome, and whatever else it is boys do when they play outside in wide open spaces.
We looked at that house twice today. Once this morning, and once more this evening with the boys (who spent the entire time wrestling around in every room! They feel at home already.)
We were feeling good about the house and were prepared to make an offer in the morning.
After arriving home and ordering pizza for a Friday night treat, our realtor called and said, "You're not going to believe this but . . ."
Apparently, not more than five minutes after we pulled out of the driveway of that house, a couple called and said they were preparing to make an offer on that very same house, and would have made a verbal offer right then, but they were turned down on that because they do not have their financing secured yet.
My heart sunk into my toes, and my faith wavered ever so slightly.
After calling Joe frantically to explain the situation, and discussing it in brief, he called and put a bid in, but . . . we'll see.
It is all I can do to keep from biting all my nails off and crying my head off.
It's all so emotional, this house stuff.
Poker night is over and all the boys are sleeping soundly. I am not able to sleep just yet. There are so many things going through my mind. All the packing, all the toting, all the settling in again. And if we lose this house, what are we to do?
It is overwhelming.
I turn, as I always must, to scripture. I look for answers not in myself, but in Him who is "over all, and through all, and in all" (Eph. 4:6) and while reading Ps. 94, I come upon this: "When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul."
Console me, O God. Bring joy to my soul as only you can. It is in You, and not houses or lands that my peace and my joy is found. Help me not to forget that in this process.
If you read this, please pray with us that we will have peace and wisdom as we are in this process.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

A really good idea!

This is a great idea if you have a child reading a book for a report, or just reading a book, or even for your own reading.
Keep a sticky note pad and pen or pencil with your book.
After reading each chapter, summarize events and important information from the reading on a note and stick it to the last page of each chapter.
This will help your child (or you) remember what they read and to organize and arrange information, thoughts and ideas easily, quickly and effectively.
Thanks to Johnny, one of my 4th grade Latin students, for this tip. His mom has him do this when he is reading a book for a book report, and he said it really helps.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Home, Sweet Home

We are selling our house.
Yup. The cozy yellow cottage will enfold some other family soon, will hold their feasting, laughing, yelling, snuggling, crying, sleeping, waking, dreaming, being within its noble timbers as it has held ours this past year and a half, almost two years, really.
We've been here such a short time, but there have been many memories made. Happy ones, sad ones, good ones, great ones, bad ones. All ours to take with us where ever we are going.
As sorry as I am to leave this house, I know that a house does not a home make. Home is made by the people in the house, by how they live together and how they love each other and what they believe in.
There is a great adventure in our near future. There is another house out there to become acquainted with, to make our home. It is quite exciting, really.
God is God, and we believe that He alone is sovereign, that He is good, and that He has plans for each of our lives, separately and as a family. He is more interested in home than anyone because He created it. He knows, even now, where we will be when the dust settles from all of this, even though we do not yet.
I rest in this. I thank Him for His kindness to us thus far.
I will not be anxious about this (though at times that takes a concentrated effort). I will, in all things, with prayer and thanksgiving present my request to God.
My request is this: God, draw us to the house that is to be ours; dwell there even now, fill it with Your peace and presence, preparing the way for us to come home.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Boys and their "toys"

When we were having Isaac, Joe would say, "We're not going to buy any toys for our kids. We're going to give them sticks and strings and boxes and let them create their own toys from their imagination . . ." or something like that.
You have only to peak in their room to know that idea didn't go very far.
But perhaps he was on to something . . .

Monday, February 25, 2008

Time keeps on slipping into the future . . .

" . . .Of all the gifts that a parent can give to a child, time is the most precious." --Robin R. Meyers

Time flies. The older I get, the more true this seems. All I have to do is look at my sons to see it. My oldest will be the big 1-0 in a few months, entering his "tween" years; soon, my five year old will be six -- hardly a baby at all, now, but a big little guy; and even the baby will be nine months old in a couple of weeks. Nine months.
We won't even get into how much older I am now than I used to be.
There are days like today, when nothing too out of the ordinary happened. It was a day. A pretty good day. Not spectacular. Not devastating. Just a day.
Or was it.
My children are growing up so fast I can almost hear their bones and muscles and skin lengthening and stretching, their minds expanding, their spirits opening, and it is happening on days like this.
Ordinary days.
It is on days like this that lifetimes happen. Days add up, and before you know it, years have passed. Whole lives are lived on ordinary days. Extraordinary lives, because there is magic in these days too. It's true. Magic in each and every one of them. You just need to know where to look for it. What to listen for.
I find it in my son's eyes. They light up with wonder at little things, they laugh, they search my own eyes with love, for love.
I hear it in their voices, excited with new discovery and spilling out stories of their adventures. It rings in their laughter and bubbles out in their giggles, bouncing around my head.
I feel it in their hands, varying in size, the three pairs of them still seeking me out for a hug, a squeeze, a touch.
I feel it in my husband's kiss, the brush of his hand against my arm, his fingers feeling for mine as we drive down the street.
It was in the cups of tea I shared with mom today.
In the morning spent looking at houses with grandpa.
"Life happens while we wait for something to happen, and so it's no wonder that when we get there nothing seems to be happening!" -- Robin R. Meyers
I want to embrace the life that is happening. It all comes back to time. Taking time to see. Giving time to our children, our loved ones, to let them enchant us. Letting go of our perception of what is ordinary, so we can become aware of the ordinary magic of our everyday lives.

Some pictures from this "ordinary" day:
Isaac the scout

Josiah is crusin' the universe

Daniel wants to know, "Bedtime story, anyone?"

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Always on a Sunday

Today is Sunday which, in my family, means two things. Church, and pasta! For as long as I can remember, and even before that, my grandfather has made pasta and "gravy" (what we call pasta sauce, because it is made with meat) every Sunday. Well, nearly every Sunday.
He fries the meatballs and sausage the day before, and conjures a tomato sauce of ingredients measured by cupped palm-full in a huge pot early Sunday morning.
It simmers over a low flame while we worship, and when we arrive home, souls and spirits fed but flesh seeking food, the aroma lifts us right off our feet.
There is always a house full of friends who gather for "Pop Dan's gravy" and for the fellowship,
and in this way, Sunday worship continues, for where two or three are gathered in His name, He is in their midst.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Otto's + shoe skating = one great day

Today, we got up and went to breakfast at Otto's with mom. It was a nice treat for the boys, who ordered cinnamon rolls. They were as big as their faces! And as sweet, too. Usually, I don't approve of so much sugar at breakfast, or anytime, really, but sometimes a treat has to be a treat.
It was typical eggs and bacon for me, with a toasted English muffin. Mom had the same.
Otto's is one of those nifty mid-west cafes which remains unchanged by time. When you walk in the door, you are thrown back to the late '40s, early '50s at least. The counter, the stools, the booths -- all vintage in gray and blue and pink. It's the kind of place that makes you stop looking at your watch. You feel safe there. You forget that one day very soon crazy people may be running our country.
Breakfast was lovely, and Daniel even got in on the action with a little egg yolk. Yum.
We headed to grandpa's after our meal.
We've been getting freezing rain here the past few days, and many streets and sidewalks are paved in a crystalline layer of ice. Grandpa's driveway is covered, a single slippery surface that slopes into the street, which is also encrusted in a thick layer of ice. The boys got out of the truck and immediately began sliding all around, giggling with glee and falling on their knees, and sometimes other areas with more padding! Josiah shouted to me as I was gingerly walking to the front door with Daniel, "Look mom! I'm shoe-skating!!"
Everything is a great adventure for my sons. They find the challenge, the wonder, the fun in just about anything they are faced with. There is an abandon with which they meet life. A trust that everything will be all right. And when they are knocked on their small rumpuses, providing there is no bloodshed (that's a whole other scene altogether), they get back up and keep on skating.
I watch them from the door. I smile at them. I fear for them. I pray for them. I pray they will keep on skating. . . no matter what.

Friday, February 22, 2008

He Gives and Takes Away

Here we go . . . I'm totally new to this blogging thing, so bear with me.

Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits." Psalm 103:2

It's been a tough year and a half for us. We lost my dad suddenly on October 17, 2006, and less than one year later, I was standing by my grandmother's bed, saying goodbye to another one of the best people I knew. She died October 8, 2007.
Sandwiched in between these devastating losses, God blessed us with our third child, Daniel William Joseph. His story is pretty amazing, really.
Joe and I were content with our two boys. After the birth of our second child, Josiah, we had two early term miscarriages. I wasn't getting any younger, and we figured that God had given us two delightful, beautiful boys, and we were happy and blessed to have them. Besides, having two children had its benefits -- we had a good one to one ratio. We moved into a smaller house, a cozy little cottage in a quite neighborhood with enough room for the four of us and the dog. Life was going along swimmingly.
When the phone rings at 11:30 on a Sunday evening, it usually isn't anything good -- and it wasn't.
"Joy, I can't wake dad up . . ."
The next three days are a blur of emergency room, life-flight, ICU, doctors and nurses and specialists, phone calls, questions, tears.
By Tuesday afternoon, my husband and I were driving the 45 minutes to pick up our boys, who had been staying with friends, and tell them that Pop had gone to live with Jesus in Heaven. Isaac cried and cried. Josiah stared off with big hazel eyes, moist with emotion. "I'm not crying," he always says when something touches him, "my eyes are just leaking."
Isaac felt robbed. "It's not fair! We were going to build the moped, he was going to teach me how to work on cars! . . ." He saw a lifetime of memories and days to be spent with Pop vanish like waking from a dream.
There are no words for how I was feeling, or rather, there are words, but none of them seem to capture with any justice the deep wounding of my heart over dad's sudden passing. I did not even get the chance to say goodbye. He was comatose by the time I reached his house that Sunday night, and never regained consciousness.
I am not one to fly in the face of God, and though I was feeling raw and broken, I did not blame Him or even question Him because through the years I have come to believe in His absolute sovereignty, His perfect will, His bigger picture. For many reasons, I knew from personal experience that though He slay me, I should trust Him, and while I accept that this is how it is, on that particular day, I was not okay with it.
After gathering at my grandparents, I snuck out to the empty field across the street from their house. The sun was sinking, and the air was nippy with autumn chill. The sky blazed orange in the west for a few moments as the dark came on and folded over the day. It was the kind of evening I would have marveled at normally.
Instead, I paced the field, silently at first, tears streaming down my face, and then I started to mumble, "I am not okay with this! I am not okay with this!" until finally I was sobbing and yelling "I AM NOT OKAY WITH THIS!"
God, faithful as He is, met me in that field, and He said, "You do not have to be okay with this."
I cried until I could not cry any longer, and went in to be with my family and the church friends that were arriving to grieve with us. They came with hot soup and tissues and broken hearts. My dad was their friend. They were hurting too. Somehow we comforted each other as God began to ever so gently comfort us. In that way, we made it through the first night of many difficult nights.
Dad was buried on a Saturday. Sunday, a good friend of ours from Omaha came to see us. It is so hard for anything to be good in those first few days and months after death, but his visit was a welcomed one that lent at least a bit of distraction from staring into space, wondering what to do or say next.
At one point, our friend, David, said, "You know, it would be okay if you guys had another baby."
His words shocked me. We were in the middle of death here, and he wanted to talk about babies?! I didn't even think I could have any more.
"Even if I could, I would never have another baby now." I shot out.
"Why?" he asked.
All I could manage was "My dad isn't here to see another grandchild." That was it for me. How could life go on, change, when my dad was not here to see it, to be a part of it?
That Tuesday, one week to the day my dad died, I was sitting in my doctor's office, listening in disbelief as she said the words "You're pregnant."
My pregnancy with Daniel was very difficult. I had terrible morning sickness, and beginning in December, I found myself in the hospital every month, bleeding and cramping. I would have been afraid that I was loosing him, but I knew this baby had a special purpose and was arriving at just the right time . . . for such a time as this, if you will. I was sick a lot, and sad a lot, but there was a peace that surrounded me when I thought of my son.
It was a rainy Sunday afternoon, June 10th, when Joe and I drove to the hospital in a flood. Daniel was on his way. It rained so much, the top floors of the hospital were flooding, and the ceiling tiles were falling, soggy, all around us. We didn't care. Very early the next morning, Daniel arrived. He was perfect and beautiful and, like his brothers, seemed to have an old soul, and to know things -- the secrets of the universe -- we forget as we grow up.
We named him Daniel, for my grandfather, William, for my dad, and Joseph, for his dad. It's a legacy name.
A few weeks after he was born, I was sitting at my grandparent's kitchen table with my grandma, and she said, "I feel like I could live ten more years. If I could make it ten years, Daniel will remember who I am." This sounded good to me.
That is why it was such a shock when less than ten weeks later she was coming home from the hospital on Hospice after a series of heart attacks. Her prognosis was not good. Several weeks later, On a Monday morning in October, almost one year after the death of my dad, grandma went to meet him, and to live with Jesus. Talk about deja vous.
It has been hard, dealing with death, nighttime feedings, dirty diapers and crying (both Daniel's and mine).
There are days I feel like it is all too much. There are days I focus on the loss and the sadness. But then I look into the eyes of my small son, my five year old, my nine year old, and I know. I know that God is good, that He does have a plan and that somehow we all fit into it -- me, Dad, Gram, the boys, Joe . . . all of us. His plans don't end when our lives do. In fact, death is only the beginning of true life. And while I live, I will praise the Lord. I will remember His benefits, which, for me, come in the form of three beautiful boys, my terrific husband, my extended and church families. He gives joy, not just happiness, and peace, not just quietness. He fills the gaps, the holes, the wounds with His Holy self, and asks only all of me in return. He gives and takes away, blessed be His name.