Thursday, January 26, 2006

Chess and My Blue-eyed Boy

Gabriel is taking a Chess class and though he had played before, he is suddenly very excited about it. He studies his notebook, plays with his dad, uncle, grandma, and by himself. He wanted to teach me a couple weeks ago and I tried for his sake, but realized I like a game you don’t have to think about so much. Yesterday he wanted me to play again, so I said ok. He thrives on undivided attention and Scott had just left on a trip, so I figured I could take time out of my busyness for him. I got a cup of tea and we sat down to play and it turned out to be the sweetest time. I’d been going in all directions all morning and to sit across from him and see his blue eyes light up and his expressive face as he talked excitedly about strategies, castle-ing, and corridors. I was filled with such a love and appreciation for him. We have been butting heads lately and sometimes I’m overwhelmed by his energy. I was reminded of all his charm and uniqueness and how much it means for him to have time alone with me. Because of his enthusiasm, I actually learned some things (like what the pieces are called and how they can move!) and we had a great time. I saw that something I was doing for his sake turned out to be a blessing for me. I still don’t know if I’ll ever love Chess or win a game, but I do love my boy and our times together.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

The River Path

Gloria and I walked down by Alton Baker Park yesterday afternoon. It’s been raining so much and the river is so high, it’s amazing. The water’s up to the bottom of the little bridge and is lapping waves up around it. It’s flowing so fast and muddy with big splashes of white against the bushes on the other side. The bench where we feed the birds on the island is half under water and the duck and geese didn’t seem to know what to do. I felt the same—my familiar walking place, yet everything seems out of place and wild. But really beautiful and alive! It had been cold and foggy, but the sun burst out and actually felt warm on our faces, making us wish for Spring. Gloria showed me the red branches she wants us to use to decorate her wedding next week and took me to see the peacocks that live by the maintenance building. I never would have known to look for them, but there’s a male and female and he was too shy to fan his tail, but so magnificently beautiful blue in the sun. We talked about all kinds of things while we walked. Life is such a mix of good and hard, and so many family and friends going though things right now. Ones who are sick in the hospital, family waiting for news, a marriage hanging by a thread, the girls who’s dad died in this river on New Year’s day. Our aunt who’s lost so many loved ones, and how could one person bear that much pain? The sadness of life on this earth.. and then the joys and wonders. Weddings . Having someone who loves you completely and wants to be with you forever. Healthy, beautiful children who make me laugh everyday. We talked about how we don’t know how we’d get through if something bad happened that changed every thing, and we don’t even want to think about it. I have to believe that God is a present help in time of need and has grace and strength for what each day might hold. I look at Gloria and Okon beginning their life together and I hope the journey is like how the river path usually is-winding by a lazy river that sparkles in the sun. Enjoying each day but also knowing there are miles of beauty still ahead and wonderful surprises like “the red berry tree” we raided at Christmas and the peacock couple and watching the sun set and the moon rise. I love the many blessings of having a family and I want all that for them. I also know that life can be hard. We’ll have fog and rain and maybe someday it will even feel that the river has flooded high enough to sweep us away someday. Maybe we’ll have to find a different way than we planned, maybe it will take longer and be steeper, but if that time comes for them, for us, and those we talked of who are living it right now—God, I ask for the grace to be there, strength to keep going, for some unexpected beauty along the way, some birds to sing when we can’t and the hope and promise of spring again.

I have been kind if emotional and reflective, maybe because my little sister is getting married. It’s a precious time and it goes so fast. This year we’ll have been married 16 years and our oldest will be in high school! I want to make the most of our days. One of our favorite songs says:
We live, we love, we forgive and never give up,
Because the days we are given are gifts from above
And today we remember to live and to Love.--superchic(k)

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Little Women

I watched Little Women with the girls tonight. Peace had never seen it and she didn't think she'd like it, but I told her to give it a try. She ended up saying that she loved the story and wants to read the book. I remembered that when I was her age Little Women was my favorite book and I used it for as many book reports as my teachers would let me. I think the first one I read was a children's version where Beth doesn't actually die. I loved the way it paralled with Pilgrim's progress, and the surprising twists the story takes. Mostly, I was drawn to the way the family stuck together through good and bad times. And the way each of the sisters was so different, but they loved each other so much.

It's fun to be able to pass on our love of certain stories to our children and remember my mom doing the same with us. I remember both of us crying and crying at the end of Charlotte's Web. All of us kids begging for just one more chapter of the suspenseful Trapped in the Old Cabin. Laughing over the Gordon Korman books. Not wanting the last in the Narnia series to come to an end. We didn't have a tv and lots of evenings were spent reading together. It was also a good way to pass the time on many long car trips.

We always have a chapter book going and usually I save it for last after our other school work and Bible reading are done. But this moring I brought it out first and we read 2 chapters of Eragon, eating breakfast and drinking tea, wrapped in blankets on the couch. Eragon is a fantasy that ended up on the best seller list, written by a homeschooled teenager. He has such an extensive vocabulary that I've had to get the dictionary out few times. Today we learned what exactly a zephyr is and what it meant when a horse quaffed. Because of it's themes, I'm glad to be reading it together with the kids-- it leads to all kinds of interesting discussions.

I hope my children will continue to enjoy being read to for a long, long time. I hope they continue to like some the books I grew up on and learn from the new ones. I hope Peace will like Little Women, but if not--that's ok, there's a lot more books out there!

Enough is as Good as a Feast

I am blessed with so much in my life. I’m blessed with the things that matter—love and family and friends. I’m blessed to live in a beautiful place, to be free to believe what I want and to teach my children. I’m blessed to have so many opportunities and choices. And compared to most of the world, I am blessed worth an abundance of material things.

I’ve been thinking about those material things. I often say to the kids as we wander distractedly through a store-“Have you noticed they’re just trying to sell us stuff?’ Of course, that’s true, but I don’t always want to think of it that way. They want me to exchange my money for these things. That money spent cannot be spent again and it can’t be spent on something else, perhaps something more important. That money took a measured amount of my husband’s time and energy to earn. I’m responsible to spend it wisely.

We have had some years when money was tight and there weren’t so many options and decisions to make (besides which bill to pay late and which kind of Ramen noodles to buy!) I am so grateful for the blessing we have enjoyed the past few years of having a more stable income and room in our budget for some “extras”. But that comes also with a sobering sense of wanting to be a good steward of what we have, to use it wisely for our family and to help others.

I love to get a good price on stuff. That has, at times, contributed to my being a “junk collector’, as we call it in our family. I would see things at a garage sale, the Goodwill, or clearance table, or the homeschool give-away box and think I needed to get it just because it was a good deal, and if I didn’t need it, surely someone I knew could use it. I am trying not to do that anymore—I don’t want to add to the piles in my closet and the boxes in my garage that I am already need to clear the clutter out of. So, as I often find myself thinking some things a good deal, or free, and I might have a use for it someday, I am trying to stop and think-- What will having this thing gain me? Is it needed, useful or would actually bring beauty and joy to our lives? Or is it just one more thing that will cost me—by wasting my money, cluttering my house and ending up in a pile of stuff that overwhelms me?

I have to admit I fall into the trap advertising sets for me sometimes. I see the shiny pictures, the displays at the mall, the colors, or the excitement of an e-bay auction, the feeling of walking down the mall with an armful of bags, and I unconsciously think I would be happier if I just had that thing. I recently went to a Pampered Chef party with one or two things I was going to buy and then when I started looking at the catalogue- I saw about 20 more I wanted. There’s nothing wrong with these things, in fact some of them I probably will buy someday-if I will really use them and have a place for them. It was just the change I felt in my heart-rather than thankfulness for what I got, I focused on wishing I had more. And the truth is while these kitchen tools may be fun or make my jobs easier, no matter how well my kitchen is outfitted- they themselves don’t create the atmosphere of sitting down to a delicious meal with my family. It’s people—like the Proverb says ”better is a dish of vegetables where love is…” I think the lies that advertising sells us, especially women, are important to keep in mind and to expose to ourselves and to our children.

Peace and I were in the Goodwill about a year ago and I pulled out a pretty shirt her size. It was a good brand and only a dollar or two and I was trying to see if she wanted me to buy it for her. She told me, ”No, I think I have enough shirts’. This older lady was near us and she said,” Isn’t it great that someone so young can know when enough is enough?” That has stuck with me. Let’s leave the shirt for someone who needs it and will be happy to have it. Enough is enough.. Or as Mary Poppins said ,”Enough is as good as a feast.”
I have a quote on my fridge that says,’Life is relationships, the rest is just stuff. We can’t take it with us. It should serve us rather that us serving it by having it be too important or take away from what is important. I also am having the thought that this way of thinking is the key to living a simple life. Enough is enough when it comes to material things, but also to activities, to the pressure we put on ourselves, the things that complicate our lives.
So, the next time I go to the store and start getting vortexed—that’s what my kids say when we start wandering in circles looking at stuff—I want to see all that Stuff for what it is, no matter how great the sale is. I want to tell myself the truth about how happy it will make me, to make a wise decision, and to be very thankful for what I have been blessed with.

Monday, January 02, 2006


Well, I have officially admitted it-- my daughter is taller than me! At 13, Jessamyn has passed 5'6'' and is still growing taller. It's just one more moment in realizing how fast the time goes and how much I love my children. We were looking at baby pictures this week and it really seems like not so long ago that they were just like they're cousins who are 3 years old and 9 months old. Not only are they growing so rapidly on the outside, but I see their maturity and personality taking shape on the inside, to. They are becoming more thoughtful and aware of how what they affects other people, and getting independent in so many ways. That independence causes such mixed emotions in me. Sadness because they don't need me in some ways anymore. Excitement to see what the future holds for them. Gratefulness for the strong relationship we have and hope that that relationship will grow in new ways. A sense that it's time for me to find my identtity in more than just being their mom, as they find their identities apart from me. A prayer for all of us as we find our way as a family, that we will make the most of our days and years together and remember how precious we are to each other. Because before I know it, they will all be passing my height mark on the kitchen wall! picture--Mother's Day 2005 (when I was still taller!)