Saturday, October 3, 2015

It's Official...

After the summer months spent measuring and speculating, my 12 year-old son is now officially taller than me. I've suspected so for a few weeks now, but since school started we haven't measured. Olivia initiated all the measuring this afternoon, convinced it could not be true. A measuring tape against the wall and a ruler squared off at the top of our heads seemed to indicate a tie at 5'7", so we tried a few other ways of determining "the winner," as Michael referred to it. No hats allowed, even to hide hat-head.

Then came the idea to use a level... and the bubble clearly favored Michael. Expressionless till now, just look at that air of satisfaction in his face!

But... I still outweigh him.  ;)

Later in the day, Michael and Olivia met up with the youth group to clean the church while our regular crew is away. The group went out for dinner when the job was done, and I found myself alone with my younger boys this evening. They were up for making dinner as I worked on hemming some panels for Jon's home office. Of course they needed some direction, but they did most of the chopping, sauteing, and mashing of potatoes on their own.

It's important to me that a) my kids learn their way around a kitchen, and b) appreciate the work involved when a meal is prepared for them.

They made a pretty good mess (including windows, cabinets, and floors), but it was still more help than hassle.

I took these pictures from outside the kitchen window, through the screen. I like the muted effect it has on the image.

Andrew wanted to wear the onion goggles that clearly don't fit him, and Jacob used the meat mallet to skin the garlic. They stopped every now and then to dance to the music that was playing.

This day was a nice break from a petty intense week. I am thankful that God always knows what we can handle and what we cannot, and provides rest in His perfect timing.


Tuesday, September 22, 2015

September Things, and Jacob's 9th


Heat again. I find myself picking up my phone multiple times a day just to check the weather. It's not that I don't already know the forecast, it's that maybe, just maybe, the forecast changed and relief is on it's way sooner than previously predicted. I look around at my yard plants and I give them a little more water, hoping they will make it just a few more weeks. Surely fall weather will come at some point. We're all waiting...

Heat is not all bad thought. Just a few points from the top of my head:
  • It makes me more thankful for the gorgeous weather we enjoy most other times of the year 
  • It means we enjoy our pool for longer in the season 
  • Heat makes me wear less clothes, which makes my husband happy! 
  • Fewer clothes dirtied by the rest of the family means I have less laundry
  • We have decreased appetites (or I just don't have a desire to cook), so we eat more salads and simple meals
  • Sweating is detoxifying
  • My hair will be healthier because I'm not blow drying it as often
  • My kids like me better because I buy them ice cream 

I am not by nature a thankful person; I tend to see both obvious and potential (or imagined) trouble first. I have learned, though, that I have to be deliberate in finding the good, or seeing the beauty, and returning thanks to God. This blog has been a way for me to do that, and it has been good for my soul.

It is a rare moment here this afternoon. I am skipping evening church tonight with the younger two boys because of headaches and signs of colds. Their older brother should be taking it easy at home too, since he had a pale green color to his face earlier today and had to excuse himself from the main service. He claims the nausea was just from dehydration, and that he's all better now. Somehow, I have a feeling it will be a different story come school time tomorrow. I will remain hopeful that my mother's intuition is wrong.

Football is going well this season. Jacob's team remains undefeated. He has a fun group of boys that he enjoys playing with. This weekend's game was the first loss for Andrew's team; it was a painful loss to a dirty team. The boys were emotional (some parents, too) throughout and after the game. This is good life training stuff! And Michael's team? Well, it's been a challenge, and though I wish his team were stronger, I know that life is full of challenge and I hope this is an opportunity for learning as well. Nonetheless, Michael is having a good time. Jon has surprised me with his coaching ability (not sure why I should be surprised), and his cool disposition and encouraging way is appreciated by the other parents.

Jon with Jacob's team. Jacob is #9

I'm not the best at capturing action images, but Jacob's strength is snatching flags--

Positioned and ready--

Watching. I think it's a big part of what I do for my kids. I watch games, I watch when they say, "Hey Mom! Watch this!" and I watch when they don't realize it. Watching and watchfulness.

Jon is in the process of transferring video footage from old cassettes to digital format, so we have all been crowding around the computer screen to watch these videos as time permits at night. Jon and I both agree these videos are kind of sad to watch. They are clips of magical days gone by, those days when the kids were little. Oh, I loved being a mom to my littles! They said the sweetest things, funny things; watching their little personalities in all their quirky ways is hilarious! The cuteness of those little darlings is just too much! There is one video that Jon made for me of Andrew: He was four years old, and he was in the halo while his broken neck healed. Jon filmed him dancing to a song Andrew and I called "ours" during his pre-school years. I hadn't seen it till now. He wiggled his hips and shook his tiny bottom and waved, his big, chocolate-brown eyes and deep dimples exuding charm and fortitude in a very difficult time. We all watched intently, laughing so hard our sides hurt, and for me, tears I couldn't control rolled down in a weird combination of opposite emotions surfacing all at once.

Watching all those videos make me want to love my kids all the more now, giving grace to all their faults and stumblings, comfort where needed, and constant, never-ceasing encouragement.

Those seem to be the good days-- days with little kids and babies and nestled in close. There was a happy simplicity in that season. And, yes, I know some of those days were long and hard, but the "wonderfulness" is my prevailing memory. I should think, though, that the present days will be just as near and dear to me years from now. I want to be intentionally present each day, allowing good, clear memories to form. Not just for me, but for us all. This takes work-- deliberate actions, thoughts, and words. So I pray that the Lord would help me love my husband and kids with affectionate love. I can be good at loving with sacrificial love, but affectionate love takes effort. Affectionate love is a very present sort of love; it is not withholding love until the other becomes who I would like them to be. I have become aware that I need the Lord's help in this.



I can’t let September pass by without remembering Jacob’s birthday. My baby is now nine. He couldn’t imagine a birthday without his best friends, so a party was a must. He has a wonderful group of friends from church and it is always such a treat to have them over. We took our traditional Mom-and-Me birthday shot before heading out to church that weekend.

Then after church, I raced home to get things going before Jon arrived with a literal truckload of boys. This age group of boys is just so fun; they don't even realize how entertaining they are by just being themselves. They all tumbled in with backpacks, pillows, and sleeping bags. Then marching through the kitchen they respectfully said, "Hello, Mrs. Rourke!" knowing that their own mom would desire this, but they forgot to look up or slow down as they rush to unload their stuff in the bedroom and change from Sunday clothes to swim trunks. Within minutes I noticed one boy run his fingers along my white wall, leaving behind 3 or 4 light brown finger sweeps of dirt. I surprise myself and smile.

Boys. They just come with dirt. Good thing for the pool and for outdoor eating!

I looked into the bedroom and two bathrooms, and there was a myriad of clothes flung all about, including inside-out Sunday pants with inside-out underwear still attached to one pant leg. Only minutes had passed and it was difficult to decipher which belongings went together, as all bags appeared to be open and their contents scrambled across the beds and floor. Fun times.

We have made good use of the table Jon built for us with reclaimed stable wood given to us by some friends. And nothing could be better to serve on a day like this than grilled burgers-- thanks again to Jon.

The boys played all day: Balloon fights, front yard/back yard, remote control cars and quadcopter, and mostly pool. Here, after a late night dinner and when all the balloons except for three were popped, I took a picture from the upstairs deck.

At 11:45 pm I could still hear loud "whispering," some bumps against the wall, giggles. I peeked inside and no one was in their own place. They said they couldn't sleep because of the coffee ice cream. Then a nearby neighborhood dog barked, and in unison 2 or 3 boys sang out loud, "Who let the dogs out? Woof, woof..." Even though I wanted to go to bed, their craziness made me laugh. They were up in the morning long before me, playing with Nerf guns.

Nine years for Jacob. Unreal. I'm sure it's because he's my baby, but I'm soaking it all in. Plus, he's just so special to me and our relationship is just so sweet. To think I had wished for another girl, and that I cried when I found out I was having another boy! I can't imagine life without him!


Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Grace Like Rain

Somewhere in the early morning hours, I awoke to the sound of rain. It's a normal thing to most, I suppose, but quite the novelty for us. And so desperately needed. We all slept in; the cool weather allowing us to finally sleep after many restless nights. For the first night in many, I didn't find people sleeping in places they don't normally sleep, such as the floor, or the sofa, or the guest bed.

It's raining again tonight, and I hope to make it to bed before it stops. Rainfall at night is just so wonderful.

Breakfast and rain: wild honey on toasted homemade bread, and a fresh, damp breeze through open windows. And jeans and coffee. We are enjoying this change for the 24 hours this weather will last.

We didn't do a good job closing things up, since at nighttime it was still quite hot. The door to the deck off our bedroom was wide open during the night, but I've got to say it was a lovely way by which to discover the change of weather.

After five months or so of eating our meals outdoors, we gathered around the dining room table tonight.

I was on the road this morning, driving Olivia to school, and the thought of God's grace being poured out like rain occupied my mind. He lavishly dispenses grace upon grace, and I admittedly hardly ever recognize it. Sure, I remember it when I consider the life and death of Jesus on my behalf, but God is also intimately involved in every single aspect of my life. I couldn't-- even if I tried-- have any idea how much grace He continuously pours out to me. It makes me wonder if I would more worthily walk this life if I had a better grasp of His grace. It makes me want to know more of His love for me, 'cause I want to walk that worthy walk.

Olivia reminded me of this old song as we drove along in the rain:

Grace Like Rain, by Todd Agnew (click to listen)


Thursday, September 10, 2015

Be Still.

We sang this together in church this past Sunday. On my left side and on my right I could see the profiles of people that are suffering-- one lady whose arm was wedged snuggly in her husband's for mutual comfort, another who fidgeted with a crumpled tissue, still another sitting stoic. My own persistently aching heart reminds me that heaven stands waiting to end all sadness and grief at the long awaited appointed time. And though conquering seems a foreign idea, the Bible says we are more than conquerors! Of course this is not of ourselves, but through Him who loved us, Christ Jesus. So while there is breath in my body, may I just simply and resolutely live to praise my Lord.

Be Still, My Soul

Be still, my soul: the Lord is on thy side.
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain.
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change, He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul: thy best, thy heav’nly Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

Be still, my soul: begin the song of praise
On earth, believing, to Thy Lord on high;
Acknowledge Him in all thy words and ways,
So shall He view thee with a well-pleased eye.
Be still, my soul: the Sun of life divine
Through passing clouds shall but more brightly shine.

first and last verses
by Kathrina von Schlegel

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

An Update of Sorts, and Ramblings

 A lone rose from the backyard for the living room

Tuesday, September 8

It seems I have fallen out of the habit of blogging, or perhaps, I haven't been able to make adjustments for the changes in this season of life. It used to be I could carve out little sections of time here and there; plus, my kids went to bed earlier, and Jon was away more often. One of the things I am really missing is time alone, just simple time without having to play catch-up or meet pressing issues. Time alone is so rare and hard to come by. You'd think it would be easier now compared to when my kids were little, but it's not. I don't want to be glued to the computer more than I have to while my kids are around. My active presence during these years is important to me because I know they will be gone in no time. So blogging gets the very back burner.

But tonight it's too hot to sleep, so instead of tossing and turning in exasperation I am here at the dining table, alone except for the chirping cricket outside the door. Ahh.

We worked a half day of school on Labor Day so that today, when the temperatures soared, we could take off for an afternoon at the beach. I picked Olivia up from her school at 1:15 in Jon's truck all loaded with surfboards and beach things. It's after Labor Day now, so the beaches are only sparsely sprinkled with locals. In other words, the beach was practically our's today. That was a good thing because when we got there I found out that my swimsuit bottom was inside out. That's what happens when I try to do a lot in a little amount of time. Still, it is my aim to get out of the routine now and then; nature is a wonderful stress relief for the kids.

I couldn't help but notice the clouds as we were out today. We have the most lovely clouds here in our corner of the country. They are spectacular in beauty and in variety. It's too bad they are only empty promises to us, lovely to look at but rarely delivering rain. We have forgotten what it's like not to live in a time of drought. I am reminded that God's Word is not an empty promise; His words go forth and accomplish His purpose. His Word will not return void.

They say the rains could come this winter, that El Niño will pay us a visit. That would be helpful, but I wonder about this old house we call home. I am not confident it can withstand El Niño.

Andrew and Jack in our school room

School is in full swing now and, as predicted, the new routine of responsibility is becoming more comfortable. There have been many new experiences, opportunities for growth, failures from which to learn, and funny stories. Jacob discovered that the elastic waistband adjuster on the inside of his shorts had slipped out and become useless just moments before the start of his first PE class. His shorts would literally have fallen off his slender body unless he constantly held them up. To avoid embarrassment, his only option during class was to run with his hands in his pockets so as to hold up his shorts. His PE teacher called him out because "running with your hands in your pockets is unsafe." We had a good laugh when he described to us his predicament.

Olivia's biology teacher has given us much to talk about in our car rides home and around the dinner table. His folly and blindness to the Truth have been good reminders that God had to open our eyes to the Truth at one time, and our attitude toward unbelievers should be of compassion and love. Olivia has been quick to find a handful of other Christian girls (or, at least, they are "churched"); I am thankful that their worldview and character traits were evident enough to spot each other in class after just a few periods.

I am learning a thing or two as well. For one, I realize now that I raised some difficult eaters! Actually, most who know us well also know that my kids have always been good eaters and enjoy a variety of more sophisticated flavors. But now that I am packing lunches, a quick peanut butter sandwich is only balked at. Michael's favorite: roast beef or pastrami with specialty mustards on sourdough. Olivia likes smoked Gouda, multi-grain pita crackers, and red grapes. She has also been making large amounts of nut, dried fruit, and chocolate chip trail mixes in a gallon-size ziplock bag to keep on hand, but those of us as home find it irresistible. Jon is especially fond of her stash. Anyway, I am open to some healthy lunch ideas...

Our temps are going up and up this week. Growing up in Canada I remember the start of the school year bringing cooler weather, even in August. Not so in SoCal. The summer just gets started here in August, and September isn't any cooler. We are sleeping with the French doors flung wide open and the fans a-whirling. But the days are getting shorted and the sunsets are moving closer to our horizon. Soon we will be racing up the stairs in the evenings to see the sunset show-- God's handiwork across the ocean sky.

Peppers and a tomato from Olivia's garden 


Wednesday, Sept. 9

Lunch time now over with the three boys. They were in the pool, gliding around on inner tubes, and sipping cold smoothies. Its' not a bad life! Today is hotter than yesterday, tomorrow will be the worst. As in life, I will find ways to create enjoyment in the midst of difficulty.  

Now it's back to school work, and I click this post into existence.


Friday, August 21, 2015

Notes for August

Summer break is winding down quickly and I am feeling sad already! I've never liked the start of school, either as a student or as a homeschool mom. This year we have joined a charter school so there will be a lot of change for us. Although my kids will have some traditional classes, most of our courses will be homeschool/independent study. Olivia will have the most class time since she is in high school now, and she will be on campus 4/5 days even though half her schooling is still independent study. I am fiercely independent, and I can tell already that answering to a "system" and proving myself to an "educational specialist" is going to rub me the wrong way at times. The administrative load is significant, and in my opinion much time is wasted. However, my boys are excited about their elective classes and Olivia is looking forward to new experiences and resources. Overall, it will be a good experience and new opportunity for growth. I'm sure the discomfort I have toward change will soon dissipate as we settle into a new routine, and "change" begins to feel "normal."

Flag football has begun, much to the boys' happiness. Jon is coaching all three teams because this makes enrolling in sports more do-able for us. Since he is coaching, the practices are held back-to-back, and the games are all on the same day at the same location. I'm so thankful for Jon's practical involvement, but especially for his desire to do things like this with the boys.

sports = injuries

The benefits of sports outweigh surface injuries, and boys equate blood with toughness and, well, qualities that make boys manly. Or something like that.

No tears. 

And now for the sake of feminine balance around here, my stephanotis growing well and smelling wonderful.

Olivia is in braces again. The pain is nearly gone now, but she was feeling it when I snapped these shots last week.

Jon took Michael on a fun little father-son getaway earlier this week, so I made it my business to do something with the other three. They chose the beach and late evening tacos after the sunset. Since school has started in some districts, the beach was noticeably less busy.

Undistracted by a surfboard, Olivia enjoyed playing with her little brothers.

Fun in the waves and funny faces!

Tiny brittle stars in the washed up seaweed.

Blond-tipped eyelashes

Low tide

Clear water, good waves

Bracing himself for the torrent of water...


Our end-of-summer-vacation sky


"Be still and know that I am God." This has always been a special verse to me. In fact, I heard that sentence as a kid and held on to it long before I even knew it was a verse in the Bible. It just seemed so right that this would be the safest, happiest place to be. Be still. Know. God is GOD... and it's going to be OK. It's so simple.

"Be still," God says. But I've not been perfectly still. I've wiggled and squirmed like a child impatient on her parent's lap. I have trusted him, I think, but with impatient discomfort.

Perhaps if I didn't have that deeply set knowledge that God is indeed GOD, I might be more than impatient. I might not even hope to find stillness and rest. Maybe I'd be downright angry. For me anger can come in not understanding.

I've been tested more than once by God in pretty significant ways. His grace is the only way I've stood firm. It wasn't by my super-faith that I had resolute trust in His goodness and coming provision when it appeared I might find myself to be a widow and single mother of four. It wasn't because of my immense spiritual maturity that I weathered days in the PICU with my four-year old son whose broken neck and bent spinal chord weren't responding to treatment. Car accidents are not accidents in God's economy 'cause He ordains events in our lives with love for our good and for His glory. And in His love for us, He provides all that we need. His grace carried me through, and I can take no credit.

But unlike car crashes and physical injuries where there is no choosing or personal culpability involved, some trials are harder to accept because personal responsibility and choice feel central. This trial with the two foster kids did involve choice. And the choices seemed to be lose-lose.

So the lingering question remains: "Were my choices and actions right?"

Will this question haunt me till I die?

And the questions persist: How did I fail? Should I have been more resolute, more trusting in the Lord? Could I have been more compassionate, more loving? Given the nature of the situation, did we make the right decision for everyone involved?

Yes, I believe the right decision was made, but there is that lingering "What if...?" that is tormenting at times.

And so here I am. I find myself impatient with what God is doing in my life. I am squirming because it's hard to be still.

Now what? The change of events and resulting disappointments have left me out of sorts. My insecurities seem magnified, deficiencies outweighing any capability. It seems so juvenile, so whiny... but yeah, I feel like I'm not good at anything. What are my natural talents, and what are my spiritual gifts? Will my life be the hum-drum story of a comfortable, clean and shiny Christian that never worked hard, never got down and dirty to produce fruit?

"God, you know my heart. Lead me to the place of quiet rest and stillness in Your sovereign plan. Enable me to do what pleases you most."

And so if God chooses to bless me with relative ease, should I not receive that with thanksgiving...?
...Because what He really wants is for me to delight in Him.