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.


Sunday, August 16, 2015


It turns out that this summer did not give me the time to journal here the way I had hoped. Frankly, it could just be that my season for blogging is passing. My time for writing seems to be disappearing as my kids are growing and the days are getting longer. They are staying up later, and the shrinking amount of time in the evening is taken up with more pressing obligations. I'm not sure what's going to happen when school starts up again soon, but I'm not expecting more time.

Our trip east and north last month seems to be far behind us already, and the task of posting pictures of our time in NYC has been nagging at me all month. I didn't tote my dslr with me the entire time (because it's heavy and Jon did say we should try not to look like tourists!), and we saw much more than I photographed. Our visit was a nice little attachment to our time in Canada, thanks to Jon's out-of-the-box planning. He has forever wanted to take us there, as his goal is to take us to all the major US cities. He just loves NYC, and I personally enjoyed it much more than I expected!

Our first walk through Manhattan was at midnight or so, after a ferry ride from Staten Island (and past Lady Liberty all lit up). Still, there were people everywhere as the city really is one that never sleeps. The next couple of days we stayed in Times Square. The kids and I spent an afternoon exploring on our own as Jon had to return our rental car to the airport and ride the subway back. The kids were surprised at how small the New Year's Eve ball really is (one of the few things they recognized from TV), and how busy the whole place is at all times.

A little bewildered at this point, we sat and people watched. We didn't really want to do all the touristy things, but rather get a sense for what life in the NYC is like.

So many buildings! The new and the old are mixed together with such a variety of architectural style and character. There is history all around, history in the making. I liked this glass building blending in with the sky, but I think I'd enjoy living in a brick building better.

The Freedom Tower. Such an impressive site.

Ground Zero. Olivia was 6 months old when it all happened, so I know my kids all feel more removed from the events than Jon and I do. Still, it was sobering for us all. These are such a massive monuments and I don't believe any of us will forget.

More buildings everywhere. It strikes me as almost baffling that people can live here all the time. It's cool and all, but I would quickly begin to crave space and greenery and trees and sky. And the sound of silence.

We visited the Financial District late in the evening, so the lighting for pictures was really bad. Sometimes seeing with the eyes is better anyway, so I didn't mind the times I couldn't take pictures.

I could navigate the streets just fine, but I was glad Jon could navigate the subways. Otherwise, I'd be lost in the underground!

We'd walk 7-10 miles per day. Jack did awesome, but he was tired by late night!

A short lunch break outside the NYC Public Library.

Grand Central

I experienced with keeping my shutter open for a few seconds. Can you spot Olivia standing still in the next shot, and Jon in the following, while there is movement all around?

Rockefeller Center

And the Rockefeller Lego Store, where Jacob and Andrew spent their souvenir money from Grandma. (Olivia bought a pretty necklace with a feather pendant. Michael couldn't bear to spend his  money on a trinket, and a designer watch cost too much, so he pocketed his cash. He is saving for an iPod.)

We made it to Central Park as the sun was setting. Some people, who were making these giant bubbles at the gate, invited my kids to join them. Of course they were eager to do so.

Later, the kids caught fireflies in Central Park and we took a nice walk by lamplight. Olivia and I wanted to return in the daylight, but because of rain we never did make it back.

There were plenty of other highlight though. For one thing, I chanced upon Free People and Tocca sample sales in the garment district close to our hotel while googling some other information. I wasn't familiar with Tocca, but now Olivia and I share one of their pretty skirts. We both found many things that were such a good deal, and so NOT Gap! Jon and the boys were happy to assist us. Jon acted as our personal shopper/stylist, and Michael carried our heavy bag in the rain for miles. We nearly had to buy another suitcase.

Another fav was the Chelsea Market. If only we needed groceries... If only we could have had a dinner party before flying home. The styling of the shops was also captivating.

Jon and I would like to go back some day, just the two of us. I got the lay of the land this time around, but a show and some fine dining would be fun, too. On the other hand, the soup we had from the Soup Nazi (Seinfeld) was delicious and the show of life on the street was entertaining.

We enjoyed it all. Thanks Jon!