Saturday, October 31, 2009

Trick or treat!

Boy, have we had a busy day!
My older boys were up early this morning to start pop corn sales for Boy Scouts. Thanks so much, Nathan, for taking them to sell. I fell back to sleep on the couch after you left!!!
Mom and I did a little shopping and a little lunching and a little more shopping this afternoon.
We visited gramp for a while and had some killer potatoes and eggs!!
Then it was off with our boys, a.k.a. Star Wars clone trooper, Storm Shadow (a white ninja from G.I. Joe) and dinosaur head boy, to Wheatstate for free pizza!!
After that, it was trick-or-treating for a couple of hours, and then home to assess the loot, eat some of it, and watch Arsenic and Old Lace.
Now, my sweet and sweet-toothed boys are all sleeping peacefully on this All Hallow's Eve, and I am too tired to write much more than this!!
Lucky for me, I'll gain an hour when we FALL BACK tonight!
Hopefully, it's an hour of peaceful sleep.
Here are some pics of last night's Fall Festival (both older boys were ninjas) and all the boys earlier today, right before trick-or-treating.

Friday, October 30, 2009

The possible impossible

It's like a riddle.
What is the possible impossible?
According to writer Leslie Leyland Fields, the possible impossible is . . . love.
It's such a nice word.
It conjures up images of pink hearts and sweet kisses and moonlight and candlelight and . . . sacrificing our selves for others and death.
Wait!! What?!
In one of the books I'm currently reading, Parenting is Your Highest Calling: And 8 Other Myths That Trap Us in Worry and Guilt, this issue of love is looked at in a refreshing way by author Fields. I say "refreshing" because she is enlightening about what love is Biblically, and encourages that while we are human and will most likely never be perfect at loving all the time, it is possible to love the way Christ does because, by dying on the cross for us while we were yet sinners and forgiving us freely when we ask Him to, He made a way for us to love like Him.
She is writing about it in terms of parent/child relationships, primarily, but as I am reading, I realize over and over again that we are incapably capable, and called to sacrificial love not only with our children, but with our spouses and families and friends, brothers and sisters, as well.
This kind of love is hard to read about at times, because it seems impossible to do.
And that is the point.
In and of ourselves, we are incapable of loving selflessly, unreservedly. It is only because God first loved us, and gave himself up for us in the person of his Son, Jesus Christ, that we have an example of how to love that way. Dying to self to serve another.
When our hearts are breaking, and we love anyway.
When it asks more of us then we think we have to give, or want to give, and we give and give and give.
When it costs us everything, and we buy into it anyway, knowing we may receive nothing in return.
That is real love.
Not that there is anything wrong with the oooey-gooey, hearts-hanging-over-my-head, feel good kind of love. I rather like this kind of love myself. But what happens when all the goo oozes out, and the good feelings are gone, and loving means getting up in the middle of the night to get a cup of cold water for a thirsty child, or helping your spouse find a pair of socks, or giving a friend a call in the middle of your busy day just to say hello and encourage them, or serving hot meals to the homeless on a holiday evening. (I know I'm playing this out a bit, but if we really are going to love selflessly, shouldn't we go there?)
And really, can any of these scenarios compare to opening your arms and dying for all of fallen humanity? To knowing each fallen person personally, intimately, completely, and still loving them enough to die for them while they are yet spitting on you, rejecting you?
I want to love like this more.
It is sooooooo hard though!
I am sooooo selfish.
And it does not always feel good.
Actually, mostly, it downright hurts!
But. . . it is not impossible, though it may feel that way at times.
A way was made for us to love like that.
Not an easy way, granted.
But it is a way that leads to fullness of life and true joy and salvation and . . . love.

"Truly, truly I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal." John 12:24-25

"If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, his is the one who will save it." Luke 9:23-24

"There is no greater love than this, that a man should lay down his life for his friends." John 15:13

On a side note: I highly recommend the above mentioned book, especially for parents. It has been very helpful, insightful and freeing in many areas.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

If I didn't know . . .

I overheard Josiah tell one of his friends this evening, "Your a day late, and a corn cob short!"
If I didn't know where I was living before, I sure do know it now!

Lord of the Dance!

Went to see Michael Flatley's Lord of the Dance with my mom on Monday evening.
What a great show!
My dad loved Irish dance and music.
All things Irish, actually.
With a last name like Flanagan, I guess that was to be expected.
So, when mom found out that Lord of the Dance was coming to town, she jumped on the opportunity to get tickets, and I, of course, agreed to share the experience with her. You don't pass up a show like that when you live in a town like this!
We went in honor of my dad, gone from us three years this month.
What a way to celebrate him!
He would have loved it!
Dad had the chance to see Michael Flatley when he was with Riverdance many, many years ago, and he really enjoyed that.
The show mom and I saw was spectacular! One of those shows you'll always remember. I do love me a good show.
I can't say it made me miss my dad any more.
I miss him so much already, nothing really makes me miss him more.
But I smiled, and cried a little, and thought of him, and wondered if he was doing an Irish jig in heaven.
It made me laugh to think of it, dad dancing a jig.
I laughed out loud.
I'm sure of this though. Whatever he is doing, he is not wearing shiny black pants!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Soccer Mutha!

The boys had soccer today.
It was quite cold, 36 degrees with winds at 22 mph!
Can you say burrrrr?
Well, I can. I got lots of practice today!
We did so well, though, and I yelled my head off, cheering for my boys, and all the kids, so that kept me a little warm.
Isaac's team won the day! Champions, undefeated as yet this year, since they won the softball tournament in September, too.
Josiah's team did so well. They played against kids who might as well of been giants, they were so big! But our kids held them, and they only won by one point!!
I am so proud of all the kids. In spite of the cold, it was a good day.
Here are some pictures:

And here are some fall and family dinner pictures from yesterday:

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Increase the peace

I've noticed that I blog in spurts.
I guess there are some times that are more conducive to blogging than others in my life.
Truth be known, I am shirking other priority responsibilities right now . . . like grading (grades are due tomorrow!! EEEKKK!), and writing a Christmas play (two, in fact), and getting ready for my next class (which starts in 10 minutes . . . did I mention grading?) in order to write this blog.
This is a funny way to begin this post, actually, because I'm thinking about . . . peace.
It seems it is something I am always striving for.
If I can just get this done . . . or wait until that event has passed.
If I can hang in there until the next weekend, the next break, the next year . . .maybe I will finally be able to find peace. To rest.
But what I am coming to realize is that peace is not a thing to be gotten; it is a person to know.
Peace, a.k.a. Jesus Christ.
I have mistakenly been equating peace with a state of my being, when I should have been looking to the One Being who is peace.
Peace is not having nothing to do, although that can afford many "peaceful moments", I imagine.
It is having just as much to do as always, but carrying the load to Jesus and asking for His direction, His wisdom, His heart, His strength, His . . . peace to help you through it all, with grace.
It is about not letting your heart be troubled or afraid of what the next days, hours, moments hold, but trusting.
It is about letting go of you and holding on to Him.
It is about true rest, which isn't found in idleness, but in doing everything with purpose and joy to the glory of God.
For me, this happens best when I focus on Him.
Even in the midst of my busyness, when I sing a song, say a prayer, become aware of the divine in the common all around me, choose to take time to love, to play, to praise, to wonder, to connect, I know Peace.
I believe spiritual things are practical as well.
Practically, there are some things I do to help increase the peace in my life. I don't do all of them all of the time, but these are some of the things that help to center my focus on Jesus and others, and not on myself, which is the perfect formula for living with Peace:
I light candles.
I listen to worship music.
I take deep breaths.
I read a short verse, a poem, an inspirational thought . . . or a long one.
I pray.
I take time out from what is consuming me and I call a friend or family member, just because.
I think of all the things I have to be thankful for.
I sip a cup of coffee or herbal tea.
I tell my children I love them.
I talk a short walk.
I write.
I work in the garden.
I look out the window.
I go for a ride.
I think about the goodness of God, and remember all his mercies toward me . . . new every morning.
No matter which of these I choose, I make sure I invite He who is Peace to go with me, to be with me. I make sure I am aware of Him. I make sure we connect.
That makes all the difference!
What do you do to increase the peace, and meet with Him who is Peace, in your life? Your home? I'd love to know.

Daniel's new favorite book, for now . . . and other readings around the house

"Books to the ceiling,
Books to the sky,
My pile of books is a mile high.
How I love them! How I need them!
I'll have a long beard by the time I read them."

~Arnold Lobel

Well, maybe not a long beard . . .
Daniel is in love.
He is in love with a book.
This makes me very happy.
We do not own this book, so we have to keep renewing it from the library.
What is this book?
It's called Where Have You Been? by Margaret Wise Brown.

It is a sing-songy, rhyming book, and the illustrations in this edition are darling!!
The book begins, "Little old cat, little old cat, where have you been?" "To see this and that," said the little old cat, "That's where I've been."
Owl goes on to ask various animals where they have been, and their answers are sweet and interesting.
Daniel can just about recite this book by heart.
He loves to hear it and to see the pictures, and we often read it two, three, six times before he is done with it.
I am enjoying a new book he received as a gift from MeMe called For God So Loved the World. The illustrations are bold and delightful, and each page highlights some of the gifts we enjoy because God so loved. It is beautifully multi-cultural and I highly recommend this book for young and old. It is good for us all to remember that Go so loved . . .

The boys and I are on to our third book in the Redwall series, Mattimeo, about an evil fox who steals the young of Redwall Abbey to enslave them. This is a read-aloud for us, and we usually read it during breakfast.

Isaac just finished reading The Red Badge of Courage, a classic by Stephen Crane (born in Newark, NJ, by the way. When I was growing up, we used to pass an apartment complex called Stephen Crane Village all the time. Imagine my surprise to find out later that he was a famous author!!) He wrote a book report on it.
I am reading The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society for the next book-club meeting, which will be sometime in November. I am thoroughly enjoying this book, written as a series of letters between the most unlikely of friends, drawn together by the German occupation of the Channel Islands during World War II.

We will also be reading One Good Turn, by Kate Atkinson, but I am waiting on inter-library loan for that one.
I am also reading Parenting is Your Highest Calling: And Eight Other Myths That Trap Us In Worry and Guilt by Leslie Leyland Fields. I will probably blog about this one when I am finished.

Another book next to my bed is A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens, which I am using to help me write a Christmas play.

Joe is currently enjoying Believing it All: Lessons I Learned from My Children, by Marc Parent, about a stay-at-home dad and his adventures with his sons. This is one of my favorite books, as well.

Well, these are the literary happenings here. I highly recommend all the books mentioned above.
And this is the perfect time of year to snuggle up with a warm drink, a fuzzy blanket, and a hot book!
Remember, reading is much more fun when shared with loved ones! Read with your child, your spouse, your friends!
Happy reading, everyone!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


It is a mostly cloudy day, with blustery winds whipping up a little fall nip and a whole lotta leaves.
There are some pretty spectacular trees out there.
It is sprinkling.
Yesterday was one of those blue sky fall days, where it was so bright, it was almost painful without sunglasses. The colorful treetops glowed in the sunlight and looked like the world had burst out in flames.
I love both of these kinds of fall days. They do something on the inside of me. They make me feel warm and cozy, and sad and lonely all at the same time. Why is that, I wonder?
Daniel is recovering nicely from a bought of bronchitis.
We went to a wedding this weekend, and left him behind with MeMe. I felt as though I was missing my right arm. Before we left, Daniel looked at me and announced, "You look handsome!" Aw, shucks. You could have scooped me off the floor in a bucket right then and there.

I wish Danny was in these pictures! Next time we get dressed up, we'll get a full family photo.
My older boys enjoyed the festivities of the wedding. They looked handsome themselves in their button-downs and ties. They were a bit punchy during the ceremony, but had a chance to get the ants out of their pants at the reception. They danced and danced. Boy, did they dance!! They had their ties off, shirt collars up, and attitudes on!
It was amazing to watch them out there, in the middle of people they knew and people they didn't, bustin' moves like they owned the place. Josiah even did the dollar dance with the bride! The last wedding we attended, they stood at the edge of the dance floor and looked on at friends and strangers doing the YMCA, but didn't dare join in. What had changed in the short six months since that other wedding?
They did.
And it was time for another one of those moments. You know, the ones I'm always talking about when I realize that my kids are growing up. Becoming . . . themselves.
And I stood and watched them, smiling.
But my heart was breaking in two; one part for me, and one part for them.
As moms, there is so much of ourselves we give to and give up for our children. This is right. It is how it should be. Especially if we really believe what we say we do about Kingdom living. It's not about me, but about laying down my life for those coming behind me, especially my own children. My first church is my family, my first mission field, my home; for if I do not live Kingdom principles there, I will not truly be living them anywhere else, no matter what I do. I am not always perfect at this selfless living in my home, with my husband and children. But I strive to be. And in that striving, there is a lot of dying and investing and hoping for my children. But, really, though they are mine for a time -- oh precious little, precious time (with some of those pull-every-hair-from-my-head moments thrown in), ultimately, they belong to God. His plans for them are higher than even mine. But the thought of having to let go one day . . . ah, that is hard.
And so, as I watch them figuring it all out, and struggling to find their niche, and growing and becoming, I am a little sad for . . . me (I don't have all the selfish bugs worked out yet. I keep telling you this : ) because there will come a day when they will fly away from their first nest and make places in this world of their own, and while I hope they will include me in their lives, they will be living lives of their own, and three pieces of my heart will go with them.
And my heart broke for them, too, because there comes an end to the age of innocence, and it seems, for Isaac, at least, like this day is fast approaching. To watch his self awareness and his awareness of others on that dance floor, there was no other conclusion to come to.
Growing up can be a wonderful experience (depending on where and how and when you do it, I guess), but, like a butterfly dies a small death, struggles to shed what it was to become what it will, what it must be, there is a giving up, a shedding of childhood magic that accompanies the growing up process.
There is a sudden awareness that you are not the only one dancing.
That there are others beside you.
And that you, in fact, do not rule the world, as you once believed, but are only one small part of it.
These can be difficult realizations to come to; and how a child comes to them makes all the difference in how they become adults, and the kind of adults they become.
As a parent, I hope and I pray that the struggle will not break them, but create in them the fullness of their personhood as Christians, as men, as husbands and fathers and friends and children of God. That the shedding, the dying, the pushing and the being pushed gives them wings that will take them higher than even I can imagine for them!
It seems like I think about this stuff a lot lately, but I am watching friends kids, who I've known since they were children, getting married and leaving the country, starting businesses and having babies of their own, and I know that it is all coming down the pike for me.
I have an 11 year old, for crying out loud. This may not seem like much to you . . but it sure does to me!
When your kids are little, you get lulled into believing this lie that they will be that way forever -- dependent, sweet, small, helpless, cuddly, utterly frustrating, able to be held on your lap. Especially on the hardest days, it seems like your children will never grow up, and you will hear a chorus of mom!s all day, everyday, for the rest of your life.
But then, there is a sudden awareness that your children are indeed growing . . . and growing . . . and growing. And instead of them bumbling under your feet, sweetly talking your ears off, you have to check on them to see what they are doing and just where they are, anyway.
Forgive my dottering on. It is just where I've been lately, I guess.
It probably didn't help that the other morning, as he was waking up, Daniel rubbed his face and announced to me, "I need-a shave!"
"What? You need to save?" I asked, trying to clarify.
"No! I need-a shave! It's what the big boys do!"
Growing up way too fast.
Today, as we approached the playground at school, he began bawling at all the jacket-less boys, "Boys! Get your coats on!! Or go inside."
I cringed.
Where did he get that from?
I'm sure it felt good for him to say it, instead of hear it, for a change.

And then there's this . . . .
it is in the sweet moments of life that the struggling is made worthwhile. Sweet moments, like Dad reading Haiku to his two younger sons, who sit enraptured by the words, repeating them, hopefully, falling in love with them . . .