Saturday, December 8, 2007

The Sadness and Humor Paradox

I recently attended the funeral of my friend's 43 year old brother who died of ALS. He was diagnosed only six months ago. Normal prognosis for ALS is 3 to 10 years so this was a particularly agressive form. He left behind his wife and three beautiful daughters.

There were many wonderful moments at Kirk’s funeral but these two will stick with me a long time.

His brother Kasey told this story:
His wife, Angie was evidently quite distraught one evening before he died and crying, saying she did not know how she would make it without him. She depended on him for everything. Kirk’s response was: "Angie, I don’t want you to grieve forever. I know you will have to sometimes. But when you do, please picture me holding your face gently in my hands, looking deep into your eyes, and saying to you, ‘Get over it!’”

Another story Kasey told:
Kirk’s mom was telling Kirk that she knew he would be so much better in heaven and would not miss them at all but how much they would miss him and it would be so hard to go on living without him. He replied, “I can understand that. I wouldn’t want to live without me either. I’m glad I won’t have to.”

What a gift, that in the midst of such suffering and pain, to have a sense of humor so developed that it can’t help but continue to come out. What a trust one must have in Jesus to allow it to. May we all find much humor in 2008!

Three weeks before he died, Kirk and his wife, Angie, spoke to their church in Olathe. It is recorded and posted at the church's web site. It is powerful.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Milestone

I can't believe how fast time goes between these entries. I had to stop today and commerate a huge developmental milestone in Grant's life. Anyone who is not Grant's mother probably won't realize how huge this moment was, but believe me, it has been long awaited.

Grant has always been VERY verbal. So verbal, in fact, that as his mother, I find myself saying, uh-hmm, okay, ah, mmm, periodically without much conscious comprehension of what I am hearing. When he was little I used to say he didn't have a thought he didn't express. After awhile, you can't listen to every thought that comes into a 3-5 year old brain. You just can't! As he's gotten older, he doesn't express every thought but he loves to replay his day or a book he's been reading. The only problem is that he gets very bogged down in the details. I think he wants you to feel like you are there, so he spends a great deal of time describing small tidbits of information in the scene to the point you can't remember who he was talking about or what the plot is.

Two weeks or so ago, he was immersed in describing the details of his most recently read novel. Finally, after a twenty minute description (and we had yet to establish a plot) I bravely said for the first time, "Grant, stop. You have completely lost me. You need to give me the back of the book cover version, hit the high points. I know you want me to feel like I've read the book but that will only happen if I read the book. Give me the big picture." I could tell he was hurt and I felt like a terrible mother. But at nine years old, I felt like it was time he started to learn to summarize!

Well tonight, he was telling me about another book they read in class and he started down a rabbit trail but stopped himself and said, "But that isn't important to the story so I don't need to tell you about that." Yeah! And I actually stayed engaged in the story and I understood the plot and we moved on to another topic in less than five minutes! My premenapausal brain was happy. And just as important, Grant was happy because his mom was able to say at the end of his explanation, "That sounds like a really good story."

Like I said, this may not sound that momentous to all of you but it is a huge step for the relationship between this 40-something mother trying to juggle too many thoughts and tasks and her 9 year old son. To give 20 minutes of undivided attention to anything is difficult at best, impossible on average. I'm so excited to be able to meet this need Grant has to be connected in this way without feeling like I am so obviously not up to the task. And I'm so proud of Grant for taking to heart what I said, even when he didn't like it, and adjusting his communication style to accomodate his brain-weary mother.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Boys and their Toys

My sister's latest blog inspired me to post this poem I wrote several years when my kids were about the age her kids are now!

My Boys and their Toys
by Cherilyn Dahlsten

My boys and their toys are a mystery to me
What will excite them is known only to the three
But to we gift givers, grandparents included
Often the perfect gift is illusive

They tear off the wrapping to get to what’s new
Gaze at the contents and say, “Wow! Cool!”
“It’s just what I wanted. Look what I got!”
“It’s the one I loved, the one I sought!”

For a week, sometimes two, they’re thrilled with the gift.
It’s way at the top of their ‘glad to have it’ list.

But then in days to come, it’s placed on a shelf
Or on the floor where it stays ‘til I move it myself
It’s not that they’re tired of it and are complaining, “I’m bored.”
No, they’re playing and enjoying their toys galore.

Their toys, their creations – things not found in stores
Swords made from sticks, their arrows from limbs
Jetpacks, really backpacks, their imaginations whims
Their blankets become capes so they can soar through the air
“Mom, can we have that box we found in there?”
We need it, for we’re hunters you understand.
And there’s a rabbit we saw whose capture we’ve planned!”

My silverware has half-disappeared
And if it returns it’s rather dog-eared
It’s been put to use somehow but in what way I don’t know
My pirates or treasure hunters had need of it though.

Every belt in our house has a new job description
It may tie up a bad guy or be a leash for a kitten.

Pillows and cushions for couches and beds?
You must be joking! But they make great sleds!
And forts, soft landings, nests, and water,
And trampolines, stepping stones, ways through hot lava!
Stack them all up and they’re a gymnast’s delight
(Now you know why they’re no longer white!)

Dental floss, yes dental floss, is a favorite of mine
Its Spiderman’s web and Batman’s bat line.

They’re not ungrateful for the loot they receive
It sometimes finds a role in a plot they’ve conceived.
But their pleasure in playing it seems to me
Is in creating, inventing, where their minds are free.

Toys with too many whistles and bells
Have only one use, one purpose, and it sells.
But two days later they’ve figured it out.
It’s lost all its glamour; it’s lost all its clout.

Deep down in their hearts they understand
Things don’t satisfy, they never can.
May the knowing grow stronger, as they grow up
You God, are the only one, who can fully fill their cup.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Don't Overthink It or You'll Miss the Precious Present

I was helping a friend at the beginning Sunday School so rather than go in late to class, I went to the "prayer closet" at our church and began to write out some options for how my day might be spent (too many options, too little day) and opened my Bible for some needed comfort and direction. I found Isaiah 42:16-17. From The Message it reads: "I'll take the hand of those who don't kow the way; who can't see where they're going. I'll be a personal guide to them, directing them through unknown country. I'll be right there to show them what roads to take, make sure they don't fall in the ditch. These are the things I'll be doing for them - sticking with them, not leaving them for a minute."

All of these things I know but my head seems to insist that it can figure out what is ahead if I simply think harder. Which in turn leads to an anxious heart. You see, nearly every part of my life seems to be in transition. There is very little territory (if any?) where I say, "Oh, that. I know how to do that. This is where I'm comfortable." I've never raised a 2 1/2 year old and teenagers at the same time, trying to give adequate attention to both needs. My ministry at our church is changing. My work has completely changed. My 40 year old body is changing. And I spend a great deal of time trying to figure out where it is all headed. I'm the kind of person who likes to know the destination so I can lay out the plan on how to get there. Give me a goal, and I'll figure out how to achieve it.

The "problem" with life right now is I don't know where I'm headed and I don't know how long these transitions will last. I keep thinking these transitions are in the way of some new life instead of realizing they ARE life. I keep thinking there is some answer I need to know that will show me the next step to take rather than just resting in the fact that I have a personal guide to direct me through the unknown country.

I talked with my friend Judie after church. (See previous blog entry.) She's going through some transitions of her own and offered this advice from her husband. "Don't overthink it." I grabbed onto that like a life raft. She reminded me that if we overthink what we cannot control we miss the precious present. That's exactly what I do! I'm going to put that on my refriderator! Thank you God for such simple but needed words from a friend.

The other picture God gave me was in a moment between a daddy and his little girl. Jada was dedicated in our church today. She is barely 2. During the praise and worship time, I noticed Jada in the corner of my eye. She was curled up close to her daddy's chest with her head on his shoulder. Then suddenly she flung back and hung upside down while her back and neck rested on her daddy's arm. She had this look of pure, abandoned bliss. After a few moments, daddy would pull her close to him and she would snuggle for a minute before throwing herself back again. Once or twice, she would be the one who would reach for him and he would pull her tight again. Jada had no fear that daddy would let her go. To her, hanging upside down was a great adventure her daddy was letting her have.

Life for me feels upside down right now. Things I have counted on and gotten comfortable with are being stripped away. New things are taking their places. But it is an adventure my Abba is letting me have. And He will hold me tightly and snuggle me close as needed to assure me He's got me and won't let go.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Bentley 1989-2007

We laid Bentley (the cat) to rest yesterday. It was time. I held him while he died in the vet's office. He was purring because I was holding and stroking him and it made me feel bad that I hadn't spent more time petting him in the weeks leading up to this day I knew was coming. He was too tired to even care that he was at the vet's, the place that normally would strike fear in his heart and cause him to wail loudly. This day he was too tired and worn out to do more than rest in my arms and purr at the unexpected attention. I don't really think of myself as a "pet person" but Bentley was with us from our second year of marriage. He has had more children pull his tale, carry him around, spray him with water and chase him than most and always understood that it was his role to tolerate it or find a place to hide. He didn't receive much attention from me once the kids came along but he seemed content to just be around and part of the family. Rest in peace Bentley.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The Casserole Fairy

Those who know me know the past few months have been tough. I sense God is using this time to show me some things I need to let go of and I am in the process of understanding what those things are. He is also leading me to new things and that equation makes for tremendous pressure until I figure out what and how to let go.

Monday I did not have time nor energy to think of what we might have for supper Monday night. Mark would be the first one home and although I was relieved to know he would think of something, I also felt somewhat guilty. However, when Mark arrived home, there was a casserole in our refridgerator with a note, "Cook at 350 degrees for 45 minutes." Wow, what a blessing. My friend Des had brought us supper.

I called her later to thank her. I told her, "When you lose a tooth, the Tooth Fairy comes. When you're losing your mind, the Casserole Fairy shows up." Who knew? What a blessing to have such wonderful friends.

If ever you are wondering what to do for someone and can't think of the perfect gift, you can never go wrong with a casserole. Thank you God for how you let us know you are mindful of us in our lowly estate.

I ran across this verse this morning in Proverbs 11:25 that sums up perfectly how God works. "A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed. "

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Too Much Power

You know a 2 year old has too much authority in your home when you hear the following conversation:
"Mommy put me nigh-night."
"Daddy wants to put you nigh-night."
"No, mommy put me nigh-night."
"But daddy will be sad."
"Be sad daddy."
"You'll make daddy cry."
"Cry daddy. Be sad daddy. Mommy put me nigh-night."
"Will you give daddy a kiss?"
"Yes. Mommy put me nigh-night." Kiss

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Howey Cow

Micah's talking a blue streak these days. His latest phrase is "Howey Cow!" as in Holy Cow. You may be wondering if he appropriately interjects this charming phrase. I'll let you be the judge.

Tonight at supper, he asked, "What for supper, mom." I replied, "Look and see." Micah replied. "Howey cow. Dat soup!"

I gave him a banana to which Micah urgently said, "I open it!" I gave it to him and he worked very deliberately to remove the peel. The tip at the bottom was a bit brown so he started picking it off and said, "Howey cow, dat gwoss!"

The boys were all home from school today so when Drew came upstairs this morning, Micah said nonchalantly, "Howey cow, Dew's here."

We have these two adolescent kittens that we haven't managed to get rid of. Occassionally they are waiting by the door and try to get in when you open it. This happened to Micah the other day and he said, "Howey cow, Charm. Go out."

He was squeezing toothpaste on his toothbrush and quite a bit came out. He said, "Howey cow, too much!"

You get the idea. I don't know if it's as funny in writing as it is in person but I still laugh every time he says it. So I guess I'm getting my laughter prescription refilled daily. That's a good thing!

The boys and I went to have pictures taken today. They were thrilled to spend their day off in this way! (not) But they were good sports and got to go to Dick's afterward for their basketball shoes so it wasn't all bad. They turned out pretty good. You can view a slideshow of some selections below of the unedited versions (not cropped or zoomed).


video

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Return to Righteousness

For those who have followed this blog, you may recall my question to my friend Judie about righteousness. (See Sept. 26th entry.) Today she shared this verse with me from Hosea 10:12.

"Sow for yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the LORD, until he comes and showers righteousness on you."

We were talking today in Sunday School about hard to break bad habits, our "unplowed ground", the things we don't let God get ahold of and have His way with. But if we seek righteousness, we must allow Him to break up our unplowed ground, no matter how hardpacked. He promises if we seek Him He will come and shower righteousness on us and we will reap the fruit of his unfailing love.

I have a feeling that's just the tip of a very large iceberg that God will teach me about righteousness. But I loved the verse and thought it was a good one to chew on for awhile.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Crazy Quilts


It's been awhile since I've found to write. My tea is beside me, my house is quiet (Micah is still asleep and the others have left for school) and how I needed this moment of peace. The past two weeks have been a blur. My friend and c0-worker's last day at work was two weeks ago and she entered the hospital on October 3rd. Her battle with cancer has been winning of late and while we still hope for a miracle, it is likely that the battle is coming to an end. But as I told her, that means real life begins for her while the rest of us remain in the shadowlands, missing her. I already miss her deeply. We have worked five feet apart for ten years.

Grant said, "It must make you sad to lose a friend who you've finished each other's sentences for ten years." I said it does and asked how he knew that. He said, "When I hang around I listen to things and then I bring them up later." I wonder what else he has heard.

Grant has been very volatile these last two mornings and last night on the way to piano he started talking to me about how many times I've almost died. (Four that I know of but he only knew of two. I didn't tell him about the other two.) He doesn't really know Vickie and this is affecting him. Think how her grandkids must feel.

What God has shown me more than anything through this time is how amazingly varied life is. Like a mult-colored crazy quilt. Some want their quilt to be made in a specific pattern with coordinating, store-bought fabric and they want to be the designer. But real life is a quilt made up of a scrap from here and a scrap from there. Each scrap was taken from an experience that brought meaning to your life, whether through tears or joy. Each one brings back a memory of a person, a lesson learned, a trial or a triumph. Each one is a different shape and a different texture. In our hands these scraps look like so many rags. But in the hands of God they are sewn together in a pattern that is rich and warm and full of depth and strength. If we see our experiences through God's eyes, we can look forward to the next piece, knowing that God will make it beautiful and use it in an important way in His design. But if we keep looking longingly in the store window at the quilt that follows rhyme and reason, we miss the beauty of what God is doing.

My grandma made several quilts from scraps. I never got to ask her the story of this fabric or the other. But I always wanted to. God has given me the richest friendships at this point in my life. I know the stories of some of their scraps. And I see how God is putting them together beautifully. And when it comes right down to it, perhaps that is what life is all about. Knowing and being known by God and others. Not trying to act like we are a coordinated, store bought fabric quilt and just coming clean with the fact that God is sewing our scraps together. What an amazing gift to wrap up in our warm scrap quilts with a good friend and tell the stories of our pieces and how God is knitting them into a beautiful thing.

A friend sent me this speech from Anna Quindlan. She says it way better than I. Vickie and I have been so fortunate to have had a rich friendship and working relationship. We have been through a lot of scraps together. Her quilt is almost finished. Her life will be numerous beautiful pieces in mine.

This was a speech made by Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Anna Quindlen at the graduation ceremony of at American university where she was awarded an Honorary PhD.

"I'm a novelist. My work is human nature. Real life is all I know. Don't ever confuse the two, your life and your work. You will walk out of here this afternoon with only one thing that no one else has. There will be hundreds of people out there with your same degree: there will be thousands of people doing what you want to do for a living. But you will be the only person alive who has sole custody of your life. Your particular life. Your entire life. Not just your life at a desk or your life on a bus or in a car or at the computer. Not just the life of your mind, but the life of your heart. Not just your bank accounts but also your soul. People don't talk about the soul very much anymore. It's so much easier to write a resume than to craft a spirit. But a resume is cold comfort on a winter's night, or when you're sad, or broke, or lonely, or when you've received your test results and they're not so good.

Here is my resume: I am a good mother to three children. I have tried never to let my work stand in the way of being a good parent. I no longer consider myself the centre of the universe. I show up. I listen. I try to laugh. I am a good friend to my husband. I have tried to make marriage vows mean what they say. I am a good friend to my friends and them to me. Without them, there would be nothing to say to you today, because I would be a cardboard cut out. But I call them on the phone and I meet them for lunch. I would be rotten, at best mediocre, at my job if those other things were not true.

You cannot be really first rate at your work if your work is all you are. So here's what I wanted to tell you today: Get a life. A real life, not a manic pursuit of the next promotion, the bigger pay cheque, the larger house. Do you think you'd care so very much about those things if you blew an aneurysm one afternoon or found a lump in your breast?

Get a life in which you notice the smell of salt water pushing itself on a breeze at the seaside, a life in which you stop and watch how a red-tailed hawk circles over the water, or the way a baby scowls with concentration when she tries to pick up a sweet with her thumb and first finger. Get a life in which you are not alone. Find people you love, and who love you. And remember that love is not leisure, it is work.

Pick up the phone. Send an email. Write a letter. Get a life in which you are generous. And realize that life is the best thing ever, and that you have no business taking it for granted. Care so deeply about its goodness that you want to spread it around. Take money you would have spent on beer and give it to charity. Work in a soup kitchen. Be a big brother or sister. All of you want to do well. But if you do not do good too, then doing well will never be enough.
It is so easy to waste our lives, our days, our hours, and our minutes. It is so easy to take for granted the color of our kids' eyes, the way the melody in a symphony rises and falls and disappears and rises again. It is so easy to exist instead of to live.

I learned to live many years ago. I learned to love the journey, not the destination. I learned that it is not a dress rehearsal, and that today is the only guarantee you get. I learned to look at all the good in the world and try to give some of it back because I believed in it, completely and utterly. And I tried to do that, in part, by telling others what I had learned. By telling them this: Consider the lilies of the field. Look at the fuzz on a baby's ear. Read in the back yard with the sun on your face.

Learn to be happy. And think of life as a terminal illness, because if you do, you will live it with joy and passion as it ought to be lived".


Friday, September 28, 2007

We've Got Spirit, Yes We Do!


You may recall from the earlier entry the furry hat (Q-tip hat as Mark calls it) that Dean brought home from the Middle School auction. Well this week was Spirit Week and the final day, Homecoming Friday, called for Retro Swather Day. So here you see Dean in his retro band uniform ready for school, Q-tip hat included! I'm told that he made it all the way through 1st hour before disrobing down to a Swather t-shirt and shorts. He made his entrance, but the polyester on an 85 degree day proved too much of a challenge!

Good Job God!


I remember when Grant was about Micah's age, there was a beautiful sunset as we were driving somewhere and Grant said, "Good job God!" Yesterday, as we were coming home from Grant's piano lesson, there was a beautiful sunset, Micah piped up, "Good job God! Mommy yook, good job God!" I am convinced that preschoolers are somehow wired for praise!

Today, I had classical music playing and Micah came into my bedroom to get me and said with great excitement, "Urry mommy. Urry! Big song mommy!" The song was very majestic and exciting and Micah could not contain himself. We had to dance around the room and play "rosie". When the legato portion came and the tempo slowed, we danced with him in my arms for awhile. Then Micah said, "No gato (legato), mommy. Big song!" Sure enough, a few seconds later, the a tempo resumed and this time we chased in circles.


After my experience with Grant, God showed me this verse and I have never forgotten it. PS 8:2 "From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise." One of the best things about having young children is the reminder to stop and enjoy God's gifts and to praise God with no inhibitions and to say whenever the thought comes to mind, "Good job God!"

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Judie

My friend Judie spoke last night at our women's group, sharing her Life Story. I love to hear Life Stories! I always learn so much and last night was no exception.

Judie is one of the most humble, spirit-filled, kind, generous people I know. You'd never guess that she started her marriage over 40 years ago (at 18!) as stubborn, strong-willed and a bit rebellious. God has done a mighty work in her and He has done it through His word. Her life changed when she determined to know and love His word more than she loved her own ideas. And what a journey it has been!

She shared several scriptures with us which I had read before but her stories of how they reshaped her life gave them new meaning to me. This entry is in hope that they will impact you the same way.

She shared how her journey with the word began with Proverbs 2:6. "For the LORD gives widsom, and from His mouth come knowledge and understanding." As a young wife and mother she did not have the kind of wisdom and knowledge she needed in her own strength to do either well. God sent her to His word and gave her this promise that she would find everything she needed for both tasks in Him.

Her grandmother told her mother of Judie when Judie was a girl, "I think if she met a brick wall, she'd go right through it." Judie said she met her brick wall when she married her husband and she had no luck going through it. So God gave her this verse, "Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. HONOR one another above yourselves." Romans 12:10 She began to ask herself every day, every hour, does what I'm about to do or say HONOR my husband? This began to transform her marriage and she applied the same verse to her children and saw growth there as well.

She also found so many nuggets in Romans 12 she memorized the whole chapter which began a love for memorizing the word. (I need to read Romans 12!)

Through His word, God sent her on a quest for righteousness. He used Proverbs 21:21 to encourage her that the journey would be worth it. It says, "He who pursues righteousness and love finds life, prosperity and honor." And Isaiah 32:17 says "The fruit of righteousness will be peace; the effect of righteousness will be quietness and confidence forever." What great promises! I didn't ask Judie how she would define righteousness. It is so mult-faceted in my mind. It's hard to describe. I'll ask her and let you know what she says.

Little did she know how soon she would need this quietness and confidence. She was diagnosed with breast cancer and facing a mastectomy. God gave her this verse in Psalm 34:4,5,8 : "I sought the LORD and He answered me. He delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to Him are radiant. Their faces are never covered with shame. Taste and see that the Lord is good. Blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him."

When fear gripped her heart, God gave her Isaiah 40:10. "So do not fear, for I am with you. Do not be dismayed for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."

Judie is one of my heroes and mentors. I look to her for guidance and help. She never supplies these things in her own strength. She is a vessel that is fully consecrated to God and when I seek her out, I find a word from God. Those times when I am too overwhelmed to pray myself, when I can't see the forest for the trees, I know that if God sends me to Judie, she will pray with spirit and with the power of God's word.

She ended by challenging us all with I Peter 3:15. "But in your hearts set apart Christ as LORD. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have." Implied in that verse is the fact that our hope must be on something unchanging, unending in its power and reliability and unfailing. That can only be God and His word.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Snapshots

You know how there are those moments in life when you would do anything for a camera. But the moments is too fleeting and you know by the time you ran and got it, the moment would be gone. I don't know if it was hormones, bio-rhythms or what, but this morning I woke and felt all was well with the world. Perhaps days like today are happening every day and I am missing them. I hope not. But today, there were several snapshot moments. I captured nary a one on film but I'm determined to memorialize them in writing. I wish I had written them down as they came.

Micah got new tennis shoes and he told me "I wun fast" in them. He pulled my hand to take me ten feet farther south so I had a clear view of the whole kitchen. "Tay wight dere, mom. I go fast" he commanded before zooming all the way to the far cabinet and zooming back. He did indeed go very fast!

At naptime, I was getting Micah's bottle and changing his diaper when Micah informed me, "Dew put me nigh-night." I said, "You go ask him." Drew was downstairs in his room reading. At first Micah wanted to go by himself but then he grabbed hold of my hand and we progressed to Drew's room. When we arrived, Micah pointed to the doorknob which he can't open by himself. After I opened the door, he rushed in and exclaimed, "Urry up, Dew. Urry up! Uh-mon, Dew!" Drew of course had no idea why he was being summoned so I told Micah to tell Drew what he wanted. Micah looked at me blankly so I said, "Ask him your question." Ah hah. The light goes on. He looks back at Drew and says, "You put me nigh-night." Drew replies with a big grin, "You want me to put you night night?" to which Micah nods excitedly. Drew rises from his bed, scoops Micah up and off they go for story time, snuggling and bed. Too precious. Thank you Lord.

Dean walked down the driveway after being at Keegan's all day with a very tall, very furry band hat on. The school district had had an auction today of stuff they wanted to get rid of and this is what Dean came home with! Evidently, no one bought it at auction (imagine that) so he got it free! Keegan got one too and they plan to wear them on spirit day Friday along with some old band uniforms that Keegan has! What a hoot!

Dean and Keegan also made up a new game for the trampoline - Dance, Dance Revolution. They take the boom box out and try to outdo each other with their "dance moves" on the trampoline. I think Dean is trying to get ready for his first big dance in middle school!

Grant's friend, Robbie, and Grant were playing on the trampoline with light sabers, dodging and slicing, when up comes Micah wanting to "zump". They begrudgingly agreed and Micah had a blast. They all got off and moved to the sand box. Now Micah and Grant have light sabers and Robbie now has a broom stick. They teach Micah a few moves and have a three-way sword fight. Then Micah starts playing on the slide and swings in the hammock swing for awhile while the fighting persists around him. After a time, Micah heads toward the house. He passes a ball and, after another step, realizes his missed opportunity and returns to kick it before continuing on. He comes in and is desperate for a snack of "pepils". I finally figure out it is pretzels he wants. After rounding up a satisfactory alternative (pepils are all gone) Micah tells me, "Good zob mom."

Micah discovered a huge black and gold butterfly on the zinnias. He of course squeels and shouts and chases it away but it must love the zinnia nectar because it hovers around this noisy, blond interruption to see if it might be safe to dine again soon. As soon as Micah quiets down, he lands for another sip when the whole adventure begins again. Only this time, Micah takes off after it as it launches for its hovering tactics. It remains just beyond his reach and seems to be playing with him. He leads Micah far enough away from home base that he can return for another drink before Micah can get close again. This went on several times before the butterfly left in exasperation. He soon returned, however, when Micah was distracted. Robbie and Grant had watched the game and this time Grant sneaked up quietly, caught the gluttonous butterfly and showed him to Micah so he could take a closer look. More squeels and excitement then the very nervous butterfly was released.

Grant and Robbie played all afternoon and then we had supper. Since I had to make a quick trip to the grocery store anyway, I had picked up marshmallows and chocolate for smores. After Micah was in bed, we made a fire in the firepit. (Dean's friend Keegan was also over.) We were roasting away when Robbie said, "I LOVE roasted marshmallows but I've never roasted one over a real fire before!" This of course raised some eyebrows and we asked how he had roasted marshmallows. Robbie lives with his mom and two sisters in an apartment and they have enjoyed roasting marshmallows over a gas stove but he had never experienced a campfire before. He was so excited and probably ate way too many marshmallows but it was too fun to watch him enjoy the experience so much. A bit later, he said, "It might be easier at this time of night for me to just spend the night. That way you wouldn't waste any gas taking me home." Robbie is precious to us and to Grant. Grant led Robbie to Christ in first grade on the playground and he has been coming to Hide 'N Seek ever since. He is a tender hearted boy and we love him.

Mark had a long day of tennis arriving home at 7:00pm so he missed most of these moments. But he was able to enjoy the campfire with us and an exhuberant "DADDY HOME!" from Micah when he arrived home.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Blessings

September 10, 2007

Last night was such a gift from God. We finally did not have anything on our calendar that evening. No tennis, no practice, no rehearsal, no church, no meeting. We were all there at the dinner table and Mark and I were of one accord in telling Dean, no, he could not go be a ball boy at the college soccer game because there had been so few nights when we were all home. Then the phone rang. It was for Drew. A couple girls from the worship team needed his help learning some songs. Uhgh. They really did need his help. Worship team would lead the youth group in two days and these girls were new to the team.

“Tell them you’ll call them back.” Okay, what should we do? “What time?”

“7::20pm.” It’s now 6:00pm. That gives us an hour of togetherness. I sigh, “Okay, tell them you can.”

Dean screws up his face. “What? How come he can but I can't? I wouldn’t have to be there until 7:30pm.” I almost cave since Drew’s going to be gone anyway but Mark says, no, Dean needs to stay home and hang with us.

Then the blessing. At 6:50pm the phone rings and it’s one of the girls saying they have cheerleading at 7:00pm and won’t be able to practice. Turns out they thought they said 6:10pm but somehow Drew got 7:20pm so we’re all home after all!

Dean’s still mad so I ask him what he would like to do as a family. “Watch football.” Standard answer at our house, especially on Monday night, and once again I feel like I’m the only girl – which of course I am so I should stop being surprised.

About a month ago I implemented the “no more TV or game station or computer games until we all memorize Psalm 19” rule. I have actually been amazed at how unmotivated we all have been to memorize this Psalm (it’s not that long) and how little, for the most part, we’ve missed these electronic devices. However, football season is now upon us and I’m wondering if Mark will start to give in. I waited for his response. Neutral.

I need to get a couple things at the grocery store before it closes so I leave with a “find a game we can all play. I’ll be right back.” I wonder if Monday Night Football will be what I hear when I return. But instead Grant is playing “The Entertainer” the best he has ever played and Drew and Dean are taking turns on the guitar. Grant had written a story from the perspective of Lewis and Clark’s dog that I read with him. (Very cute.) Then we headed downstairs to play Apples to Apples. We managed to play several rounds between Micah’s tackles, kisses and making messes of the cards. (Micah thought the real game was us all sitting in a circle so he could go from person to person jumping in laps and giving kisses.) Mark took Micah off to bed and Drew disappeared.

Grant had retrieved these small cards I had set by the dinner table in hopes of spurring some meaningful (read girly) conversation. Thank you Grant! They all started, “If you could do anything, what would you do if” then you flip the card to see the scenario. Things like “you could invent something that changed the world” or “you could own any kind of store” or “you could change life for the poor.” Grant, Dean and I went through several questions. Then the question “What would you do if you could give the ultimate gift for the person to your left” came up. By this time Mark had returned. He wished to give me the gift of understanding that there is a lot of testosterone in our house and every now and then he needs to hear my ideas on how to spend an evening and encourage the boys not to roll their eyes at me. Amazingly, he had already given me this gift. After a few more questions and answers, Mark took Grant off to bed but Dean and I talked and talked for the next hour or more, about school, soccer, girls, church, heaven, football, friends, and the upcoming dance.

It was a lovely night but we so easily could have missed it. The gravity of our culture could have stolen it away. It yells, “Go, do, let me entertain you.” The TV could have dominated our conversation. Activities could have stolen our time together. Even the desire to help others can corrupt a precious time as family. I’m so glad I didn’t give in, that I fought against cultural gravity and testosterone. And amazingly, I think the boys are too.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

New York City Trip 2007

Friday, August 31

We were due to fly out of Wichita at 2:10pm but our flight was oversold by four. We offered to get bumped when we heard we would only be delayed an hour AND receive five round trip tickets to anywhere in the continental U.S. We ended up arriving in NYC two hours later rather than one, but still all in all a very good deal! Since our luggage went on ahead it was ready and waiting when we arrived so we grabbed it and a taxi and arrived at our Embassy Suites Hotel by 11:00pm ET.

Saturday, September 1

One of the highlights of our stay was the amazing breakfast buffet at our hotel. Every morning they served made to order omelets or scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, pancakes, rolls, muffins, bagels, fresh fruit, yogurt, cereal, oatmeal, coffees, teas, hot chocolate, pretty much everything you could think of for breakfast. We stuffed ourselves and grabbed an apple or pear and some yogurt to go and usually we weren’t hungry again until after 1:00pm or 2:00pm.

This was our “day pass” day at the US Open so we could get in the gates at 10:00am. By the time we navigated the subway (after a few wrong turns) I think we were there by 10:45am. It’s an amazing environment. It kind of reminds me of an Olympic Village. We watched some doubles on the outer courts then ended up finishing the day in Louis Armstrong stadium. We really like the flexibility of the day passes and if we ever go again, we definitely want to do that again.

We left around 6:30pm and stopped at Grand Central Station for supper and looked around. We caught a $7.00 cab back to the hotel that ended up being $15. (I think Mark’s tennis friend did not realize how far south our hotel was!) Every time the five of us step on a subway, it’s $10 so we thought the cab would be a better deal and it still was since we didn't have to figure out which way to turn when we exited the subway!

Sunday, Sept. 2

We didn’t get a real early start this morning and we didn’t have a real plan for the day. We started by meandering down along Battery Park along the harbor and enjoying the beautiful morning. We thought we would eventually come to the ferry to the Statue of Liberty or a tour bus company. We decided we should take the tour bus because it included the ferry ticket and would take us all around town for 48 hours. We were looking for the Gray Line but found City Sights instead. After purchasing those tickets we headed back to Battery Park and the ferry only to see the line so long we didn’t think we’d have time to do it justice and still make our Open ticket time. So back to the tour bus only this time we got on the wrong bus! We ended up on 1 ½ hour tour of Brooklyn guided by a former communist turned socialist turned democrat (see, evolution is true) Jew who grew up in Brooklyn and thought of himself as part tour guide, part stand up comedian, part singer and part world peace negotiator. As we drove through the neighborhood he told stories from his childhood and basically tried to convince us that Brooklyn was heaven on earth. As he drove through the Muslim-occupied neighborhoods he pointed out the Chinese restaurant and offered it as proof that all nationalities like Chinese food and if he could just sit down with world leaders over wantons and Szetchuan Beef, he was sure he could negotiate world peace.

We began to understand why he wasn’t working broadway, comedy clubs or at the UN and why his audience was held captive on a tour bus and made up at least partly of people who spoke little English.

A frustrating 1 ½ hours later we found a bathroom (no small feat in NYC) and the right bus and headed uptown. This time our guide had laryngitis and we strained to hear her descriptions of the passing skyscape. We got off in Times Square and immediately were incorporated into the human stream. We made our way to ESPN Zone and Toys R Us and were overwhelmed by the mass of crowds and noise. I asked the Toys R Us attendant if it was extra busy for Labor Day and she said, no, this was typical. They actually had traffic attendants with bull horns in Toys R Us. We decided we’d had enough and made our way to the relative peace and quiet of the subway for our trip out to Flushing.

This night we had reserved seats in Arthur Ashe stadium. We decided watching the meet from the blimp would be similar to our seat location. Both the matches were blow outs so the crowd was pretty tame and the atmosphere subdued. We connected with Beth a couple times and she and Mark took a picture holding the Lindsborg News Record for Ron. They were supposed to take it with another couple Lindsborg State Tennis winners but they had front row at the Grandstand in a tough five setter and they weren’t vacating their seats for the big news release.

We left before the matches were over, around 10:00pm and entered our busiest subway yet. A few stops down a very tipsy late 50’s/early 60ish woman entered who asked the guy beside her (who was beside Drew) if she could hold onto him. He agreed and she proceeded to make suggestive comments and repeated at least three times how a stranger can be your best friend. Our next stop brought two girlfriends who began fighting, cussing and throwing punches. Someone "helped" them off the train at the next stop. (If they hadn’t gone, we would have.) When we finally disembarked, Drew said, “I just saw a rated R movie on the subway! Welcome to New York.

When we got off the subway, we didn’t realize how close we were to the hotel and walked 3 blocks in the opposite direction before we figured out how to flag a cab (just stand on the corner and hold up your hand) to take us back to our hotel around 11:30pm.

Monday, Sept. 3

I told the boys at the end of this day, “we should write a travel brochure called “How to See NYC in 12 Hours!” We finally started to get the hang of this city and realized having a plan at the start of the day is way more efficient than just figuring it out as you go along.

We left our hotel about 9:15am (after another very satisfying breakfast) and walked past Ground Zero which is only a couple blocks from our hotel. We couldn’t see a lot as they are starting construction work on the Twin Tower’s replacement. Then we hailed a cab (we’re getting better!) and went to the Statue of Liberty Ferry. The line was very short and passed quickly with the help of a street musician who made fun of us, Kansas, the Jayhawks and Wildcats and the fact that we probably had no black people in our town! He really was funny and very learned. He knew a lot about most of the places people revealed were their homes.

We arrived at the island, took our touristy pictures, purchased our traditional Christmas ornament souvenir to commemorate the trip and headed for the ferry to begin our journey to Ellis Island. We were just congratulating ourselves on being at the front of the line as the ferry we were to board was unloading when we were asked to get off the dock and those left on the ferry hurredly disboarded. There was some confusion but no panic as the crowd was pushed back, back and still further back until we were 500’ from the boat. The police came by boat and helicopter and an hour later pronounced all is well and everyone boarded the ferry as though this happened every day and we shouldn’t worry our little heads about it. All in a days work in NYC I guess. We never heard for sure, but I’m guessing it was a bomb threat. I’m glad it wasn’t September 11th.

We arrived at Ellis and looked around some. I could have spent much more time there. They had a live 30 minute play, several documentaries as well as the research room, all of which we did not do. We did have time to use their computer to do a quick search and turned up a positive on Henry Holste, immigrating in 1913 so that was cool! We didn’t find any Dahlsten’s, Habigers, Johnstons and Lynn’s in the set of records where we found Henry. But you can also submit recent photos to the database if your family immigrated through Ellis and we found plenty of those names under that database, more than we had time to look through.

We ate lunch at the Ellis Island cafĂ© then caught the ferry back to Manhattan and our bus took us uptown to the American Museum of Natural History. It was an excellent museum as far as the exhibits, I liked it even better than the Smithsonium. But I have never been to a museum more steeped in evolutionary promotion than this one. It was in nearly every exhibit. It would be interesting to go back in 10 years after evolution is completely disproven to see how they cover the fact that they promoted the equivalent of “the earth is flat” to so many millions of people. We only had two hours before the museum closed but thank goodness the ticket is “by donation” so we felt like we got our $20 worth.

From there, a walk across the street brought us to Central Park where we began our stroll across from the northwest to the southeast corner. Grant was in heaven climbing the large bolders/mini mountains. In spite of the fact that we had been walking all day, it was like his energy was renewed by the green space with boy adventures awaiting around every turn. Drew and Dean couldn’t resist either. Grant proclaimed “I’ve been waiting the whole trip for this!” It made me think of all the other 9 year old boys who don’t know what they are missing in the Midwest! We enjoyed the sights and sounds and the ice cream (even though it nearly broke our teeth.) After reentering the city, we found a large Sabarro recommended by the tour guide. It was excellent and reasonable!!! It had an amazing salad bar as well as pastas. We then headed to the Top of the Rock (Rockefeller Center) for a view of the city to end our day. This time we turned the correct direction getting off our subway and had no trouble finding our hotel. Finally, on our last night!

As we were watching the news, their teaser headline was “Will the cab drivers really strike?” which put fear in our hearts since that was our way to the airport the next morning. Upon watching the full story, they are due to strike on Wednesday, not Tuesday so we are leaving in the nick of time!

It was a great and memorable trip but we were all ready to go home. Our trips always make us appreciate home a little more. New Yorkers were much friendlier than I remembered, the city much cleaner and I really felt safe most of the time. The city has changed a great deal in 20 years but it is still New York. Still crowded and noisy and expensive. Great place to visit but I sure wouldn’t want to live there. I think the boys would go back someday. There are things we didn’t get to do that they have already said they would like to someday. But for now, they’ve had enough of NYC to last awhile.