Thursday, July 29, 2010

Quick Takes, #9: What's Been Happening

It seems like I disappeared from the world wide web for a wasn't really that long, but I did miss a week of Quick Takes and a few other things. Even though I'm not a daily blogger, I noticed my absence from blogging. So, let me share with you a little of what's been keeping me so busy.

1) Two Sundays ago our church began a capital campaign. This is the first time that this congregation has done this type of major fund raising. It's exciting and scary all at the same time. I'm feeling thrilled and challenged and sometimes just plan frightened to lead them through this.

2) The day after kicking off our capital campaign, we started Vacation Bible School. I've learned we should never schedule those things at the same time, but even with the extra busyness, it was a great week of learning. We did our VBS this year with a neighboring church - a new relationship forged for this purpose.

3) My family and I didn't get to be here for the entire week of VBS because we got to go to Iowa - my home state - for my cousin's wedding. I had the privilege of co-officiating at her wedding as we blessed them and the vows they made. How exciting as they made this amazing commitment to each other.

4) We came home just in time to welcome a new member to our family. Tuesday evening my step-son and his girlfriend gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. My husband and I now wear the title of two little ones are uncles (and proud to be!). It's been amazing to watch these two young people not only have a baby but be transformed into parents.

5) As I talked about yesterday, we also had a visit from family - my mom, step-dad, grandparents, uncle and aunt. Hosting family and sharing time with multiple generations was a delight. (As was showing off the new grandbaby!)

6) As you can imagine there's a lot of catching up to do and the regular tasks of life and ministry still need to be done. So, I'm trying to not get overwhelmed (finding time to blog must indicate that I'm succeeding!) and to just take it one task at a time.

7) Meanwhile, I'm happy...and tired...but happy.

For more Quick Takes visit Jen at Conversion Diary. Have a great weekend!

Bigger Picture #5: Generations Together

We pulled up in the hotel parking lot. I retrieved the boys from the car. As we were making our way toward the building my grandfather emerged. At the first sight of him the two-year-old exclaimed, "Grandpa!" and ran into his waiting arms. The rest of the time we were together, the two-year-old was often found at his side...throwing him a football (whether his great-grandpa was ready or not), taking him by the hand and leading him on adventures, snuggled up close to his side on the couch, even choosing Great-Grandpa as the one to help him brush his teeth. That two-year-old adores his great-grandpa. And his great-grandpa adores him and is a willing participant in his antics even when his aging body resists participation.

As I watched my baby boy and my grandfather interact, I was reminded of the difference that knowing people of other generations makes. I am fortunate in that I grew up near my grandparents and great-grandparents. I have memories of five great-grandparents. I was 31 when my first grandparent died and at this point still have two living. Since having children while living 8 hours away from their grandparents and great-grandparents I am often reminded of how easy it is to take these relationships for granted when they are close by. So, we've been intentional about nurturing them. We've also been fortunate in having surrogate grandparents - people from our church who love our boys like they are their own. My children have had personal relationships with people from infants to 103 years old. They run with joy when they see their great-grandparents and grandparents. What a wonderful things to have generations together.

For more Bigger Picture Moments visit Corinne at Trains, Tutus, and Tea Time - she's hosting this week!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


I was just reading this post at Hyacynth's blog. Although she set the story of her friend's rescue of her child in a bigger picture, I couldn't help but have a flashback.

Last summer, my then three-year-old took swimming lessons for the first time. He took them through the local Y and we were fortunate enough that his daycare transported the kids whose parents signed them up. So, while I had my usual routine at work, he went to swimming lessons. And he loved it.

Then came a day, the second to last lesson, when they went out to the bus at daycare only to find it would not start. Since my schedule is flexible and I'm only four blocks away, our daycare provider called to tell me that if I wanted the then three-year-old to go to lessons, I would need to take him. I was in the middle of a meeting, but it was with a dear friend who loves my children well, so we moved our meeting poolside.

Although I was mostly watching my son, there were several times when my attention was drawn away from him - unfortunately because I didn't feel like other kids were being well supervised. In fact, I was watching two about whom I had concern when my friend suddenly said, "I think he's in trouble." I turned to look and sure enough my precious first born had gotten in water just a little too deep and was struggling as he'd go under then come up and gasp for breath. Thankfully we were sitting only about 15 feet from where he was, he was only an arm's length from the side and I could grab him in one sweep of my arm and get him to safety. Thankfully, while I was being concerned for others, my friend was watching out for him.

See, here's the thing. He was at swimming lessons. How much safer could he get? There were instructors as well as two life guards there at the pool. And yet, in an instance he was struggling to survive.

Thankfully in our case it turned out just fine. This is what he said to me, "I just went too far to the right and then I couldn't touch." Yes, really, that's what he said. And then when I told him it was time to go (because it really was - the lesson was over) he cried because he didn't want to get out of the water. I let him walk through the shallow end on the way to the car. I am so grateful that he still loves the water and wants to be in it.

But that next night as I lay down to go to sleep I found that all I could picture when I closed my eyes were his eyes, wide and screaming silently for help...his arms reaching out because he knew that a bigger child was just outside his reach...his face appearing and disappearing. It was like it suddenly clicked about what could have happened.

Why am I telling you this? Partly because I was reminded. Partly because even thinking back on it I realize again that we need not wait for desperate moments to realize how precious our children are. Partly because we all need to be alert - not anxious, not overprotective - but alert to those around us, whether they are our children or others.

Hyacynth linked to this article about drowning and how easy it is to miss the signs. Take a minute and read it.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Don't You Love It...

when the four-year-old shouts,
"Mom, he (referring to the two-year-old) peed on the steps!"

Me, too!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Quick Takes, #8: Joys of Summer

Since our air conditioning is out and likely will be until Monday (needed part is on back order), I've decided to focus my Quick Takes this week on the joys of summer (a.k.a. what I can celebrate even though it's hotter than ____ in my house!).

Before sharing them, let me give you a perspective from which to read these: I do NOT like hot weather. I try not to be a big baby about it, but I would rather have 3 feet of snow than 90 degrees...yes, really.

Having said that, here's what I can celebrate even though it's hotter than ____ in my house....

#1: The joys of home ownership. It is because I have a house that I am able to complain that the air conditioning in it is not working.

#2: The joys of watching my children play. My boys love to be outside (and, as I mentioned the other day, don't mind the heat at all) and since it's hotter inside than out, I'm less likely to find excuses to move us indoors and thus have them miss out of their much needed and very important outdoor playtime. I'm also less likely (read: not likely at all) to push outdoor time off on their daddy right now in order that I can go inside and do laundry, sit at the computer, etc.

#3: The joys of being together. We are grateful to have a basement which is remaining somewhat cooler than the rest of the house, however realizing it's not as roomy as our upstairs, we are getting to be in closer quarters with each other...and I think that's a good thing.

#4: The joys of work and daycare. On weeks when I long to be a stay-at-home mom, I will remember this week. It is with joy that we left the house this morning (a full hour earlier than usual) and headed to our cooled places where we spend the day.

#5: The joys of donuts. Because we left home so early, we got to visit a donut shop that we pass every day but don't usually go to. I discovered a flashback to my childhood in the form of a cream filled long john - filled with buttercream frosting. If you, like me, are a sugar addict, you will understand the deep joy of this. And trust me, this will not be only a summer treat! (Of course, I'm still looking for exercise ideas and will definitely need them if I become a frequent flyer to the donut shop)

#6: The joys of our new patio. Last month we had a new patio poured. We have eaten dinner there several nights. Hubby and I have spent some late evenings sitting there. Honestly though, since it's gotten so hot, I hadn't been out there. Guess where I went with the computer last night? Yes, the patio. Because 83 degrees (even though it was a little more humid) beat 93 in the house.

#7: The joys of perspective. My life is good. My life is easy. When our air conditioning being out for a few days can consume this much of my (and subsequently, your) energy because this is the biggest crisis we've faced in a can summer, this summer, this week of this summer, not be wonderful!?!

For more Quick Takes visit Jen at Conversion Diary. And stay cool!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Bigger Picture #4: Wants vs. Needs

Last night the boys and I walked in the house and after first noticing the smell of dinner in the air (I love crock pots!), I noticed that it seemed a little stuffy in the house. I listened and didn't hear the whir of the air conditioner on a hot July day. I checked one thermometer - 85 degrees. I checked the second just to be sure - 85 degrees. Diagnosis: our air conditioner is broken.

So, here are a few of my observations from last night...
1) My children behaved no differently when the house was a steamy 85 than they do when it's a cool 75. They are far more flexible than we adults.
2) My husband and I spent time remembering days when no air conditioning was the common thing. Well, actually, I spent time remembering that. While he had central air since he was two year old, I remember laying on a sheet in the living room in front of the fan which sat in our open door. I remember getting our window units. That was the air conditioning we had the entire time I was growing up. In all this, I remember being warm on many summer days, but I don't think I'm any worse for the wear.
3) We can survive a night without air conditioning. In fact I had as good a night's sleep as I usually do.

Where's the bigger picture in this? For me our little inconvience gave me pause to remember the difference between wants and needs. I am fortunate that I live a life where I get to enjoy many of the things I simply want, not only what I need. But moments like this remind me to be grateful for everything.

Yes, we are calling the air conditioner repair man today. After all, the point of this lesson has been made. And, assuming he can come out today, we will revel in the coolness of our house tonight. If it takes him a day or two...we will survive that, too. And either way, we will be grateful.

Visit Melissa at Peanut Butter in My Hair for more Bigger Picture Moments. And, enjoy your air conditioning!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Stop, Look and Listen

I was talking to a friend today who commented on a common childhood teaching -

Stop, Look and Listen.

Most of us are taught that about crossing the street. You stop at the curb. You look both ways. You listen for traffic. Then, and only then, do you cross the street.

Good advice for learning that important skill, but as my friend pointed out, not only then.

"Stop, look and listen is also good relationship advice," she said. She went on to talk about how it applies to marriage. And she's right.

As I've continued to think about this, I've applied it another important relationship...parenting.

What if with our children we would stop, look and listen?

In the midst of our busy schedules and hectic lives may we stop and be present with our children more often. May we put down the phone, let the laundry wait, even step away from the computer and just be with them.

When we are with them may we look at them. May we see them for who they are - not just for whose nose they have or who they look like when they smile, not just for who they were as babies or who they are becoming - may we see them for who they are in this moment, this day. May we notice the little details - the funny way he cocks his head, the hair bow clearly put in by its owner, the scrape on his knee from a wonderful day of climbing trees. May we look at them and also at what they are looking at (even when most often their focus is on bugs!) so that we can learn what catches their eye.

When they speak may we listen to them. May we let them know they have a voice that is heard...they say things that matter. May we help them find their voice so that they know who they are not just who we hope they will become. May we listen, not only to their spoken words but to the many ways they speak their hearts without words.

Stop, Look and Listen.

Thank you, dear friend, for this insight.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Background Music

Just recently I was looking at pictures of a friend's sweet little girl. One of them struck me. It struck me not only because the 10-month-old was adorable, but because her mother was holding her. But more than just being a picture of mother and daughter, it was impressive because of what the photographer did. She focused on the little girl and everything around her - her mother included - was blurry.

As soon as I saw it, I thought: This really does represent motherhood. (And, no, not just because we are so tired that we feel a little foggy!)

Seeing that picture made me think that mothers are the background music of our lives. Yes, sometimes as mothers we are front and center, clearly in focus, the explicit driving force in the lives of our children and families. But, perhaps more often, we are the background...the thing that changes how our children look and see, even when they don't realize our influence...the thing that is constant, always present, even when they aren't thinking about us being there. I think my mom is that in my life and I think I'm that for my boys.

And maybe it's not such a bad image for God, as well. Sure, there are times when we are clearly focused on God, when we are really aware of God's presence and God's influence...and then there is the rest of our lives...that time when God is present, is the background music that we might not even notice but that we couldn't live without.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Quick Takes, #7: Babies and Random Thoughts

Up until now my Quick Takes have all been thematic. Today I'm straying from that...although several will talk about babies, not all. This has been our week...enjoy!

#1: My children are home. They came home Monday and other than Monday I've had meetings every night. Thankfully we can have slow mornings together. And thankfully these children of mine are quite adaptable and quite happy to be home (even when being home means many evenings in the church nursery).

#2: Last week I wrote about the two-year-old who likes to be held. Tonight when I got home and went in to kiss my supposed-to-be-sleeping four-year-old good night, he wanted to be held. When I picked him up, he wrapped himself around me and did not want to be put down. Maybe he and his brother aren't so different after all.

#3: A college friend of mine and his wife experienced a miracle this week. Against all odds, their baby was born...full term, no less. At 17 weeks, her water broke, but beyond explanation of the medical world, the break sealed back over, the amniotic fluid levels returned to normal and the pregnancy went full term. Her birth was fraught with its own set of struggles. But today I saw pictures of them holding their little one - I've never seen my friend happier. Congrats to them and welcome to the world baby girl!

#4: Speaking of babies, we will have our first grandbaby later this month. I don't know if I've mentioned it before, but my husband has two older children. His son and girlfriend are expecting. Tonight they were here watching our boys and her very pregnant belly got much attention. The two-year-old kept patting it and the four-year-old (since he wasn't yet sleeping) got to tell me how he felt her tummy when the baby was moving. They are so excited for this baby to born...after all, that will make them uncles!

#5: At church on Sunday we did what I think was a really nice service, a Celebration of Independence. I'll admit that I struggle with the place of patriotism in the church; I struggle with finding ways to talk about this. But we put together what I think was a good service which acknowledged the gifts that we receive as citizens of this particular nation, while setting that in a context of our responsibilities and God's interest in the entire world. I hope that others were touched by it.

#6: How does this mom know she is loved? Our first meal together after their week away was spent with two boys very intentionally situated on either side of me, very close, in fact one finally climbing on my lap. How good that felt!

#7: I'm working on getting recommitted to exercise. I had been doing great for about a year (understand: great for me is three - five times per week, no more than 45 minutes at a time). The last month and a half I've really struggled. I want to love to exercise. I'd even settle for liking it. I generally don't. Any suggestions? I'm looking for things that fit easily into a busy schedule, can be done with small children around, don't cost much...or perhaps take care of themselves while I sleep...Anyone?

For more Quick Takes visit Jen at Conversion Diary.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Bigger Picture #3: Are We Really Asking?

Saturday night we went to a friend's house for a wonderful fireworks display. Each year these friends invite everyone from church as well as several other friends with whom they work and play to come and eat and watch together.

One of the people there that night was a little girl - about three or four years old - who was very comfortable talking to just about everyone.

She approached a church friend of ours, a grandmotherly lady who was inside doing some crocheting, and asked, "Whose house is this?"

When our friend replied with the names of the homeowners (who this little girl didn't happen to know - her family had been invited by their son-in-law), the little girl had a thoughtful moment. She then replied, "No, it's Rocky's house" - after all, that was who had invited her, it only made sense to her that it belonged to him.

As my friend told this story to me Sunday morning, she also shared her "ah ha" moment - or Bigger Picture Moment as we might call it. She said, "It suddenly occured to me that we do that a lot...we ask a question when we've already decided what the answer is."

Ah ha, indeed! How right she was. How often do we ask questions only to be convinced we already know the answers? And how much better might our relationships be if when we asked, we were really asking...and ready to listen to the answer.

For more Bigger Picture Moments visit Sarah.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Hanging On As Long As I Can

The four-year-old has always been independent. He plays well by himself. Even as an infant he could entertain himself with nothing but his hands for extended periods at a time. If you are one of his people, he loves you fiercely - this mommy is glad to be loved fiercely - but he doesn't need constant attention or affection.

Then along came the two-year-old. He's a different breed. He wants to be in the same room as other people. Always. He wants to be held. Still. Frequently. Of course age has made him more independent. He does go off and play alone - or at least where his brother is playing.

I have to admit that I love this baby's (yes, I still call the two-year-old that although he scolds me if he hears it) need to be close. Even though I have those moments - standing over a hot stove, getting ready in the morning, etc - when it's inconvenient...even though I've said (at least to myself) those words I try not to say, those words that squelch his individuality - "Why aren't you more like your brother?" Yet, still, I love his cuddle bug nature.

And I realize - as he nears 2 1/2 - that I'd better enjoy it while it lasts. Soon I will be longing for those arms around my neck, those legs around my waist, that extra weight always ready to be carried around. Soon I will wonder where my cuddle bug went.

I think I'll hold on to him as long as he'll let me...just as soon as he gets back from Iowa.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Quick Takes, #6: A Week Without Children

Since my children have been gone all week, it seems fitting that my Quick Takes might be about what I did without my children.

#1: I worked. I worked long hours. I enjoyed working long hours. I wouldn't trade my kids for anything, but (please don't hate me for saying this) it is nice to go to work early and stay late and do it without guilt.

#2: I had adult conversation with my husband. If you can imagine it, I'm not sure that we had a single conversation that had anything to do with going to the bathroom. When the kids are home I'm not sure we get through a day without "potty talk."

#3: I ate out. I may have mentioned this earlier in the week, but I nearly declared the kitchen off limits. One night we did heat up some leftovers that were too yummy to risk having to throw away, but other than that we've been eating out and...are you ready?...not once at McDonalds! Who knew it was possible?

#4: I read a book. A whole book. In one day. Because I could.

#5: I spent time with friends. I had an evening out with a newer, but dear friend who moved away on Tuesday and I have plans today to get together with an old friend (old enough that she knows what I looked like in the 80's - blessings on her) who will be visiting her in-laws not too far away. We last sat face-to-face almost a year ago.

#6: I went to bed early and mostly got up when my body, rather than the alarm, decided. Enough said.

#7: I made phone calls to Iowa...longing to know what my children were doing...a little sad when they were too busy to talk to me (because I wanted to talk to them)...a little happy when they were too busy to talk to me (because they love their Aunt and their grandparents and are so happy and so loved right where they are).

It has been a good week. But, for as good as the week has been, I will happily trade it for a rushed end of the workday, conversations about poop and pee and a McDonald's Happy Meal...hmmm, Chicken McNuggets are sounding good right about now.

Hop on over to Conversion Diary and check out some more Quick Takes.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Bigger Picture #2: Through the Eyes of a Child

I believe I've mentioned (in every post since Sunday) that my children are gone this week. They are in Iowa having a ball with their grandparents, aunt and other friends and family. My Bigger Picture Moment actually does not belong to me this week, but to my mother.

Tuesday night she and I were talking. She had spent Monday and Tuesday with the two-year-old and four-year-old along with their cousins. As she was telling me what they'd been doing, she kept telling me the little details that fascinated them: finding snails by the creek in back of her house, watching the tiger at the zoo who put on a show for the audience, going to the library two days in a row to check out Scooby-Doo videos, the four-year-old asking everyone he met how old they are. Finally she said, "It's amazing to watch life through the eyes of a child because they think everything is absolutely wonderful!"

Ah ha! Bigger Picture Moment!
Isn't that true, though? While we walk right past them, children stop and smell the flowers. While chills go up our spines at the thought of creepy, crawly things, children bend down to take in every details of God's other creatures (and then, often, squash them). While we don't even say hello to people we pass, children will strike up conversation. Because to them every little detail of life is amazing!
I think I need to be a little more intentional about experiencing life this way.

(Oh, and by the way, the four-year-old rode 2 1/2 miles on his bike Tuesday night - the bigger picture in that is my realization that this mommy better get exercising if she ever wants to keep up!)

And for more Bigger Picture Moments visit Corinne here and don't forget to link up with your own moment.