Monday, October 31, 2005

People I'd like to Know

I just read this little blurb on CNN - this is the kind of story that make me shiver when I think of international missions. I would love to know these people!

Happy Warm Halloween!

A neighbor of mine and I have been griping for 2 weeks now while we wait each morning and afternoon for the schoolbus about how freezing cold it has been. It's been fun and miserable!! I commented last week that I really needed to pray for a warm Halloween, because I didn't feel like dragging my kids around in these subzero temps! (OK - so I exaggerate a bit, it's only in the 40s!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) My neighbor is from India and practices Hindu so I didn't think she would really take me seriously. I mean, I only prayed for warm weather WHILE I was freezing my butt off everyday!

This morning we waited in the heat of the sun, it's around 60, heading up to the 70's today - YEAH!! She says to me this morning, "I'm going to start asking you to pray for things because your prayers work!" Now, she was totally joking (I think!?!) but I was kind of surprised that she remembered I said that. Mental note to self: don't joke with your neighbors about praying unless you are really going to do it! You might make God look bad!!

Anyway, a quick praise to a God who, even though I'm totally ignorant, He saved my butt today! It's a good thing he loves us all so much - especially my neighbor. (I can be such a loser!) I'm loving this warm weather!!

Sunday, October 30, 2005


T has been at work since 9 PM last night. Things went terribly wrong. Apparently they are all there, falling asleep on their desks. He's been there the longest! We stopped by tonight with brownies, ice cream, a couple bananas, and so the girlies could at least see him today. It's 8:35 PM. One more hour and it's a day.

There is one thing that any student who has ever been on a trip with T, any roommate that he has ever had or any person who has ever had the chance to get to know him well will tell you about T: he needs his sleep! He's a little scary without it. He can sleep through almost anything, except for his girlies crying. He can hear that miles away. I imagine that in college he wasn't much of a person to pull all nighters, unlike myself. I seem to function better at night! Not T!!!!! About all he's good for in the dead of night is spouting off streams of numbers in some order that is only useful to him. Should he ever become an international spy, he'd be discovered in his sleep!

So, tomorrow is Halloween. I'm thinking he'll be rolling out of bed just in time to see the little goblins strolling up our walk for some sugar! I might even be able to get him to take a few pictures. I'm doubting he'll be cognizant enough for pumpkin carving - that's my specialty anyway! We have to go now and say our prayers. Daddy will be at the top of our list!

Rosa Parks... American Heroine

I've been helping Kt all weekend with her Connecticut report. It's been long and arduous!! Trying to help a second grader type, find useful information, not perseverate on how to get our hands on a mountain laurel leaf... I'm very, very tired. It doesn't help that Tony went into work last night at 9:30 and now, at almost 5 PM, he is still at work. It's been brutal for him...

We had a brief discussion last night about the possibility of heading down to DC to pay our respects to the American Heroine, Rosa Parks. It would be such an honor to do this, especially with our children. We did not take them downtown to see Ronald Reagan after hearing how long the lines were. Em, especially, would not have been able to handle it in the heat at that time. T and I decided this time, as well, would not be possible. With his work this weekend, Halloween tomorrow (I'm the party mom!), Kt's project to finish because it's due, of all times, on Tuesday morning! After going around all our options we finally gave in to the fact that we would miss this monumental piece of history that is taking place in our own backyard.

I have to say, this is one of the few times I can say that I'm truly happy about a decision made on Capital Hill. Most of the time I'm just disgusted with politicians, but this time they got it right. I remember hearing about Rosa Parks as a child and not really understanding what she did. I understood that she was black and she wouldn't get up for a white man. I didn't understand how brave she was to break an unjust law, how humiliating life must have been for her and thousands of other "minority" men and women of her day, to live with constant daily reminders that they were somehow inferior to people of a different race. We will never know, never understand what life was like for Rosa Parks, we will never have to walk a day in her shoes. It is such an honor for our country to have been taught a very big lesson by a very strong woman.

What we make me even prouder would be to say that no citizen of America or any other country has to face this kind of injustice because of Rosa Parks, but that would be a bit presumptuous on my part. Being married to someone of another race has opened my eyes to a world of injustice that I, in my very sheltered, very nondiverse upbringing, never realized existed and never experienced in any understandable fashion. I'm ashamed to admit that if I'd ever experienced injustice towards someone of another race I was more than likely the deliverer of that injustice. Maybe not knowingly, and certainly out of complete ignorance. Ignorant. That's a really good word for someone like me, and for someone like Rosa Parks, it was time to educate the ignorant.

I have plenty of things to teach my girls about Rosa Parks. She stands for so much more than just civil rights. She is an ambassador of freedom for "minorities", women, working class. She embodies the rights of citizens from all walks of life, empowers each of us to stand up for something we see and know is wrong. I can't think of anyone more deserving to be honored in the Capital as she. As always, though, I wish she could be here to experience this honor. We can all honor her, even if we can't make it to the Capital, by practicing what she stood up for, equality for every American citizen, no matter their race, gender or religious beliefs.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

This Really Happened:

After my little post about books we went our merry way, looking for a pumpkin patch on our way home from Pennsylvania. Fortunately, for us, there are plenty to choose from in the rolling hills of farm country. Unfortunately, for us, T had researched a specific "Maze Quest" (you might notice the absence of the word "pumpkin" in that little title) and after getting lost once, we were hopefully heading the correct way.

On our way, we passed the ninth or tenth pumpkin patch as T said to the girls, "Look at that buggy going into that little farm!" There was a small buggy with an Amish family inside. My suburban know-it-all, booksmart child chimes, "I want to go to THAT pumpkin patch where the Pilgrims just went." At this point, I'm shaking my head thinking how happy I am that we are sheltered in our suburban minivan, out of earshot of anyone even remotely Amish or even from Pennsylvania. We had a very quick lesson on the difference between Pilgrims and Amish. Kt just sat in the back with a quizzical look on her face, the one that says, "Whatever, Mom and Dad, but I KNOW I just saw that in a book!"

As we continued past that cute little farm onto the "Maze Quest" I was growing evermore impatient with T. We finally pulled in, got all bundled up and started our journey to the big barn, only to find that, YES, it truly was just a maze, no pumpkin patch. Back to the car and to that cute little "pilgrim" farm. I'm so thankful that Amish family had left. Now we have been given the grace of a bit more time to prove to our book-savvy child that there really is a difference!

Schools without Books

This absolutely drives me crazy in Howard County. There has yet to be any sign of printed curriculum for my second grader. I have absolutely no idea what they use, as teachers, to teach the students. As a teacher, I was fairly dependent on my teacher's manual to guide me through particular progression of skills and also to make sure I had covered all necessary skills needed to move onto new and exciting educational frontiers (oh, that's so geeky!). Anyway, this lack of text has caused me some bit of anxiety as a parent, but I see some results in my daughter's learning. Enough that I haven't been very vocal about this disturbing lack of printed material.

But this is quite disturbing to me: in my inner-city student teaching experience, the school that I taught at had no library. Now, growing up in suburban CT and now living in suburban MD, it would appear to me that a school library is a planned for, permanent school fixture. I mean, who ever heard of a school without books? How many schools in America lack the fundamental means of information for children????

I was checking out this school where I did my student teaching practicum on google for the express purpose of trying to figure out if this issue has been remedied. I was not really that surprised to find very little information in the world wide web about them. No school website, no accolades online about how incredibly huge a difference their test scores have come in the last 10 years, no recognition for the teachers who likely continue to supplement the education of those children from regular, backbreaking trips to their local libraries each week to supply life changing information to these information starved children. It's really unbelievable to me.

In our little suburban school, while we may have no textbooks, our children are at no loss for information. They are hooked up to the world wide web, they have access to hundreds of books centrally located in the school, they have an outstanding, award-winning librarian who aides in the retrieval of any book these kids or teachers might be in search of and we take all that for granted. Now, that is a bit pathetic, wouldn't you say?? I bet we likely have 2 or more copies of the most popular books and who knows where we send the old books that no one even touches anymore. What happens to our books that we discard to make room on the shelves for our newest, award-winning books??? Is there a school out there, perhaps in nearby Baltimore or Washington, D.C. who might benefit not only from those books we are prepared to discard but also from the multiple copies we really don't need? Can't we teach our uppity suburban kids how to patiently wait for each other to finish books, how to sign up on a "waiting list" for a particular book they would like to read or even head over to one of the many, many county libraries in search of this book? I mean, really, if it's that important to them I'm sure they can afford to just buy it!

I understand I'm getting a bit cynical, as I typically do, with this whole library book thing, but this stands out to me because it's an aspect of my student teaching experience that really stood out to me as an obvious pitfall of nationwide education. How can we expect these under-resourced, understaffed and overcrowded inner-city schools to improve test scores without improving their educational status in some small way? I know libraries are expensive, but they are necessary to provide inner city students with a means to gaining certain "experiences" needed to pass these suburban oriented tests!! It's really not that much of a stretch to figure this out!

I was checking out the test scores at Hood in the hood (funny, I never thought of that when I taught there!) and they have risen significantly. Could they possibly have a library?? Or maybe they've hooked up to the www, which really isn't as effective in the hands of an elementary aged child as a book in their hands. I'm not sure what they have done, but I can attest to this: the teachers at that school have a heart for bringing information to children who have very little access to it. They impressed this upon me, as an aspiring teacher, using very creative means to do this. No library. No storytime. One less prep period for teachers. One less staff member for the school. More work for the teachers, outside of school. No Curious George books, that I loved to check out of the library when I was a kid. No "Betsy" books for the early readers. No Harry Potter for the third and fourth graders. No visiting authors. Are you all catching my drift??

I'm not sure how many schools in the US are without libraries. I'm not even sure how to find out. Except for occasional reminders to myself, this typically doesn't consume my thoughts. For the parents and students in these city schools, it's just life. For the teachers, it's a hardship. For the cities, it's another expense they don't have the money to dump into, especially with test scores to worry about. Of course, maybe the libraries would help with that - but what do I know?

Check this out if you are interested in helping. I was having trouble with some of the links, but this looks like one of probably many ways anyone who is interested in fixing a problem can help.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Mini Vacation

Well, we made it to York, PA!! It's almost everything we'd hoped for. The hotel is nice, it's relaxing, the hot tub is great, T is having a fun time - sent me a message that the "peeps are great - totally sold out for kids and mission," so some great time for him (YEAH!!!). I just have one issue: the pool is FREEZING!!! I mean, I'm quite certain someone called ahead of us and asked them to dump coolers full of ice in the pool for our arrival!!

Kt's a fish, so she jumped right in, swam around like it was the perfect pool temperature. Em sat on the side while I blew up her floatie that, even though she doesn't need it, we've forgotten some of our newly learned summer water skills, so it's more for me than her! I finally meander over to the pool and - WOOHOO!! - I'm looking at Kt like she's a total nutcase!! Even Em could only take it for so long before she asked about the "little pool" which I was quite happy to introduce her to!

We headed over to the hot tub, spent a few minutes splashing in there until she forgot how cold the big pool was. Then, without discussing this with me first, we're heading back over to the big pool again - complete TORTURE at this point.

Eventually we all made it into the hot tub, then finally back to the room. I had considered for a fleeting moment just pretending with Tony that he missed the most awesome pool! I'd send him and girls down first thing in the morning, bright and early to take a "quick" dip, and I mean quick!, before we head off to the big pumpkin patch. I just couldn't do it, though. He was already, tonight, wondering if he should just stay here with us instead of meeting all the "cool peeps" so I didn't want him sneaking out early to try to take a quick dip in this pool that conveniently stays open until 11. I sent him a little text message so he would know to just enjoy himself... and that is what he is doing! (smile)

Cinderella Obsession

Em, who is now 4, has been obsessed with Cinderella for years. Hard to believe, considering how young she is! I'd abstained from purchasing another costume, especially the coveted Cinderella because 1) they are so expensive!, and 2) we have every other princess dress in varying sizes. Last year, the day after Halloween, they had a Cinderella costume at the Disney store at 60% off, so I grabbed it for her for this year. Katie's 4 year old costume was a flower in a pot - homemade, like the ones we all used to have as kids! So, I gave in and bought her her dream costume.

I couldn't resist showing it her last year, and she has been soooooo excited all year for this Halloween. Every month she would ask me, "When's it gonna be Halloween? Is it this month??" And I'd reply, "No, another 9 months, honey! and then you can be Cinderella!" We even purchased Katie's Mulan costume last month and Emily asked again, "And I'm gonna be Cinderella?? Soon????"

Just a couple days ago I mentioned to Emily that in only a few days it would be her preschool party where she would get to wear her Cinderella costume. She gave me a funny look and said, "I was thinking that I'd like to be Raggedy Ann." To which I replied, "OH NO! OH NO!! You will BE Cinderella!" See the grief I have to put up with around here!

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Sitemeter ghosts

OK I promise this will be my last. At least, I think it will be!!! I'm pretty certain I see a couple ghosts in this!! Do you follow me? Or have I just completely lost my candy corn?

Know It All!

Em announced to me today that she could finally count. Her demonstration counted every number to 23, skipping only 13. Now I was quite impressed!! She is not my know it all, but she was so close this time. It warmed my heart.

I said to her, "Em - that was wonderful!! You only missed 13!" She smiled, all content. Then she said to me, "When I was three, I did not even KNOW the number 20. Now I'm four and I can COUNT to twenty. I can't wait until I know it all!"

I couldn't resist, so I asked, "And just how old do you have to be before you know it all?" She just rolled those beautiful eyes and said without hesitation, "You have to be a teenager. A teenager knows it all!! And I can't wait to be in high school!" She is so ahead of her years!

Relegated to the kitchen

I'm sitting here in the kitchen on this new laptop that T bought for some opportunity that has never evolved into anything fruitious. He came home from work last night, got on a call, got on another call later in the evening, then again at 2 am, tried to sleep in but got called at 8:30 to do something else, worked in the office upstairs in his underwear while attempting to take a shower between calls, tried to go into work but has remained on a series of life-or-death situations that only he can respond to, apparently...

This is the disadvantage to him working from home - I'm relegated to the kitchen, and the big mess my family leaves in here everyday. Where are those little fairies that used to clean up my house when I was growing up??? The ones who put all our dirty dishes away, filled our drawers with clean clothes, made our beds while we were at school?? I need those fairies right now!!

So, how does T do it??? I really don't know. Maybe he's one of the "I can do things that I couldn't" people that I want to become! Tomorrow night we are heading up to PA so he can go to some youth summit. It's totally necessary because when we get home Saturday, he goes into work from 10 pm until Sunday at 5 pm. Then it's off to work again Monday - Friday, 9-5. No comp time, to overtime pay, and much of the same infringement on his home time.

T is a great father, husband, youth worker. I'm not sure how he does it, but we try to make all opportunities outside of work a priority, because work can be so consuming. There is no balance. It's sad, because he used to like doing what he does at work, but now it's no longer fulfilling, because it's overwhelming. It can just suck the life out of you.

If you know T, either personally or through his blog, and you have a minute to spare, you can pray for him. Pray that he can manage this ridiculous job, his family, his ministry and still spare a bit of time for himself. I know God has a great plan where T is concerned, but right now patience is what He's asking us to have. It's not easy - we are really impatient people by nature!! God is stretching us slightly.

I can see He's stretching me right now, while I sit here with the realization that those fairies were not fairies at all. They were my mom and in this house, I'm the mom. That means I need to get to work!!! No more blogging!

To Do Things I Couldn't

I just returned from a women's Bible study group that I have been with for three years. It's a group that meets at our old church and it's these wonderful women who introduced me to Beth Moore. Actually, we all discovered her together. We've had our ups and downs, changes in the group, we've gone through some pretty serious stuff together, weathered many storms and remained friends - that's big for women!

In this group I am going through Living Beyond Yourself, which is the study I did with my church's women's group last year. In my church's group I'm going through Breaking Free, which is what I did with this particular group three years ago. (Following me????) I am actually looking forward to repeating these studies for a couple reasons.

First of all, God's Word is new and fresh every time I read it. I'm amazed at how many passages I have underlined, highlighted and even added exclamation points to that I don't remember!! Sometimes I even stare at them and think, "I wonder why that was so important to me back then?"

Secondly, going through these studies again gives me a chance to refresh truths that I had hoped to impress into my mind. I'm finding, after only completing the first weeks of each study, that I'm extremely forgetful! There's nothing like a gentle reminder from God, and that's what Beth Moore is for me. I'll choose gentle over harsh anytime!

Lastly, even though I've gone through each of these studies I'm finding new truths this second time around. It's amazing! I've also changed so much that I'm able to apply these truths in different areas of my life. I'm also more willing to admit to things in my life that I need to change.

This morning we watched the intro video for Living Beyond Yourself. These DVD's are really what I'm looking forward to because in our large women's ministry last year, they didn't play all of them and I missed many parts. This morning I felt like I had never seen this particular one before. In the end, Beth's point was that "Through the infiltrating power of the Spirit we can do things that we couldn't..." In our discussion I mentioned that so often we limit ourselves by thinking we can only do things we are "gifted" to do, or things that we are good at. Many times I've gone over a list of needs that ministry leaders have and I just can't find one thing I'm good at. I've never once thought, "I can't do that, so maybe that's what God wants me to do!" I mean, that would irresponsible! I've even thought other people "biting off more than they can chew" with my very judgmental and condescending attitude that many first children embody. I'm not sure how I ever believed I had the authority to make such a judgment, but I certainly never attained that job from God!

It's been 13 years that I have lived in Maryland and the honest truth is that I'd give just about anything to live anywhere else! I don't like it here, it doesn't feel like home to me and I've never made any "best friends" here. I can relate to the whole alien in a foreign world theme. God has slowly been revealing me what I was too stubborn to admit three years ago when I was "breaking free," too proud to admit when I was "believing God," last year but He has slapped my face with while reading about Gideon and learning about Israel's kings. It's time for me to give up my stronghold of substantiated discontentedness that I've always believed I was entitled to. It's really my high place that all other issues in my life stem from. It's what holds me back from stepping out to do the things I can't do.

I'm quite certain there are other strongholds in my life, but this one is glaring, and I'm embarrassed it's taken me three years to figure that out. I've always thought it was the result of all my other issues, but it's really the source. At the end of today's DVD, Beth has this point: "A powerful masquerading misery-maker is living within yourself." Amen. How does that powerful Spirit of God abide in our bodies with our miserable self-absorption. It's time to come out, to live.

I'm so thankful to God for being so gentle with me, because I really don't deserve it. I love to get the credit, to do it all myself, to be in control, to find that perfect solution without His help. It's just so self centered, its sickening. I think it's time to do the things I can't do on my own. I wonder what they'll be??

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

A Hymn, anyone??

I love hymns. Maybe it's because my dad was the organist at our little Baptist church growing up and he played them continuously at church, at home and anywhere he found a keyboard! Or maybe it's because I think many of them have a message that is so warming and melodious that I treasure all their promises.

My father would head up to church after school and typically I would trail along if I had nothing to do. I would sit in the pew right by the organ for a bit with my hymnal, flipping through various sections like "Christmas Music" or "Gospel" or even "Worship" - that was in our "progressive" Baptist hymnal, of course it was all worship to me! After my dad would play through the three or four hymns for that particular Sunday, I would start calling out the ones I would want him to play for me. He would throw in the occassional baseball stadium sounding chants, the "charge" tune, even some spooky sounding tunes (yeah, even that church - bless him!). I loved it, and even more than that, I loved to sing along. Aren't you glad you WEREN'T there!!

I have so many favorite hymns and I knew most of them by heart, and I would belt them out by heart - those poor Peters who always sat behind us in church!! Only the organ was ever in front of me fortunately! My dad would just play away, and I was so proud that he was my dad and that I got to sneak around the whole church building because he had the keys!! haha (back to Mischief night! and I lose track here...)

One of my favorite hymns, and for some reason I have been finding myself singing it over and over in my head, in the car - because I've learned that no one wants to hear me sing!! - and sometimes in my dreams (weird) is Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus. Now, I'm going to copy the words in my blog. My kind husband will quickly correct me if that's illegal - sorry - and they will disappear!

O soul, are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There’s a light for a look at the Savior,
And life more abundant and free!


Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

Through death into life everlasting
He passed, and we follow Him there;
Over us sin no more hath dominion—
For more than conquerors we are!


His Word shall not fail you—He promised;
Believe Him, and all will be well:
Then go to a world that is dying,
His perfect salvation to tell!


by Helen H. Lemmel

I really love this hymn. I don't hear a lot of hymns these days, even in small Baptist churches. At the Women of Faith conference they did a hymn medly, and it almost brought me to tears. That's big, because ask T, NOTHING brings me to tears. I'm as tough as nails usually, and that just doesn't really happen to me. Here's why this hymn brings me to tears sometimes...

My parents, in this small Baptist church, had some of the best friends anyone could ever hope for. They are just the kindest, most loyal, funny, lovable people you could ever, ever want for friends. One couple, in particular, have continued to go beyond the call of friendship in so many, many ways I could never list them. I LOVE these people, and am so honored that God has shown me what it really means to be a friend through them.

J first met my mom when I was in preschool with her two boys. I still have a picture (I might post it later!) of the three of us at my preschool graduation. At the time, J was a Christian but her husband was not. It's funny to hear him talk about the crazy Christians his wife used to invite over, and even funnier to hear they were my parents!!! It was through this and other friendships that her goofy husband, B, became a Christian. They and several other couples became fast friends and I still see a lot of them when I visit home. This couple J & B, though, have risen above the rest in the past couple of years because of what I witnessed when my father was sick and since he has died.

To put this all into perspective, I need to mention that this couple has had their fill of devastating experiences. They lost their first son to AIDS after he had lived for years with his homosexual partner, they have one daughter who has suffered from serious anxiety issues, a son who had a child in high school who they have raised - many issues there, and finally their last son who married a woman much older than he, only to find out she had AIDS and had given it to their son. In the midst of all they have going on in their family, I have seen two of the most compassionate, giving people. For years, they have given one night a week to lead a Bible study in the heart of Bridgeport at a halfway house. They have poured themselves into this ministry and other various Bible studies at their church. T even got to serve with them one year on Thanksgiving.

My whole life, growing up, I've known this family. I've seen them pray together with my parents, have parties and dinners, serve together in ministry and grieve together with their friends. Never, though, was I prepared for the outpouring of mercy and compassion like I witnessed when my father was sick, home alone, in the hospital. These two visited every single day that my dad was in the hospital (except when J got sick) and they cried with us, they laughed with us, they shared stories and stories while my dad lay dying next to us.

I've never in my life been more ministered to than by this couple - not ever! J would stand next to my dad's bed, pray with him and sing to him. She has a voice that sounds just like mine, but she was never too shy to belt out a hymn. Why? Because she knew my dad, she loved my dad and she knew what those hymns meant to him. At this time, my father was in a medicated coma and we were really just waiting for Jesus to come and take him to heaven. We knew it was only days away.

B would tell funny stories about when he and my dad had a little tree pruning and cutting business. Neither of them knew how to do either thing and they were both afraid of heights, so the stories are just hysterical. I'd heard them all before, but I loved hearing them again. In my mind, I could hear my dad chortling in the background with his goofy smile. J would tell the story again, about leaving a banana peel in my dad's bed after he took B out one night to buy a new camera that they couldn't afford. I'd heard that story and even told it myself, but they shared it again, and it was so funny!

When my dad finally passed away, B told us he wanted to speak at the memorial service. J told me that he never does that, not for anyone. It made me all the more curious about what he had to say. That day he shared the role that my dad played in his becoming a Christian and all my dad had taught him through their friendship. A friend of mine, who had driven all the way up from Maryland in the snow! after the death of her best friend (who had died the day before my dad) said that B's testimony was incredible. It's making me cry right now, because I wish my dad had been able to hear what his friend thought of him while he was alive!

When I hear this hymn in my head, it's sung by J, next to my dad's bed in a moment when we are just reaching out to Jesus to spare him from the pain of this world. It's the sweetest tune, not because of the way it sounds (we laughed together while we sang out of tune to him - poor, poor man!) but because of who was singing it and why. There is so much truth in this song, even when we are not dying or in despair. It's applicable to each of us, on any given day in the midst of good and bad times. For me, it just has a richer meaning because I experienced this hymn with two totally amazing people.

I look forward to seeing J & B whenever I get the chance. They regularly stop by my mom's, take her to dinner and movies, help her around the house and treat her like the wonderful widow that she is! They aren't afraid to say things around her, they don't shy away because they think they might offend her, they still grieve and laugh with her - it's such a beautiful friendship, and it's the way friends should all be. I only hope that I can be that kind of friend someday!!

"What just happened?" moment

I had one of these yesterday. Although, it may have been more of a "Why didn't I expect this to happen?" moment, or even a "How could I not have known this would happen???" moment. T and I took the girls to get flu shots, because, you know, the bird flu is acomin'! Not according to the medical specialist, but according to T, who finds all his very informed information on the world wide web. MOVING right along...

Last year Kt got a flu shot because she is high risk - asthma. She had two shots last year because it was her first year getting it. She was so brave, not a tear in her eyes. Total little sweet heart. This year, she was a bit anxious, but that's to be expected. Em was scared, too, but with a brave big sister, we figured that would calm her fears. WRONG!!

We all get to the office. I make T go because the whole dr thing creeps me out, too. The girls were in great spirits, we got the Super Hero room, so we spent some time goofing around with Spiderman and the Hulk. It was all fun. The nice doctor came in, checked everyone out. We were all set. The really sweet nurse came in, alone because our girls are so old they don't need two people anymore to hold them down. Kt jumped up on the table. Then, it all started.

I'm sitting there with Em while she's waiting patiently and out of nowhere Kt start throwing this huge, huge fit. I mean, I've never seen her like this ever, even when she was a baby!! The nurse hadn't even picked up the syringe and my almost 8 year old daughter is completely spastic, begging T and I not to make her do this. She refuses to pull up her sleeve, fighting T every step of the way. If I've ever seen ballistic, this is it! I finally just looked at her and said, "STOP IT!" While she never calmed down, she did finally give in. Of course, the shot hurt all the more because she was so tense and it hurt the rest of the day. She walked around all day with her hand over her arm giving us dirty looks.

Now, this set up quite a scene for my almost 5 year old, who actually handled the situation with much more dignity than my older daughter. Once we changed from arm to leg, she was fine, other than a few very loud shreeks. Of course, I was totally embarrassed, more because I was totally unprepared for this outrageous scene of apparent torture we were subjecting our children to. I've never seen these two carry on like this EVER.

Needless to say, we skipped the ice cream that we give to brave patients. We went home and had a little nap time! This whole experience really took me by surprise, and I've found that for whatever reason, that's what my girls do to me often. We have these freak experiences where I don't even recognize my own children! It definitely gave me food for thought. What kinds of things do I do that cause my heavenly father to not recognize me?? or wonder 'what just happened?'? Unfortunately, I can think of several. I'm far from perfect and sometimes I'm just downright terrible! It's embarrassing. I think it's pretty irresponsible and disrespectful towards God. I think yesterday I might have actually had one of those moments just after the one above, when I said something to Kt like, "I can't believe you did that to me!" (This came right after T said, "You just scared your sister out of her wits!!!!") I'm not sure exactly what I said, I was so livid. But it was something I can't take back, something that was hurtful and I said it to an almost 8 year old, who doesn't need her mother acting like a baby in front of her. It's embarrassing. I've got to work on that!

So, what did the doctor say about the bird flu?? He's not concerned at all. As far as he can tell, this disease is far from mutating into human form, it's very difficult to infect humans from birds and in this country we probably won't see that great of an effect. To which T replied to me, "He's lying." You know, I just can't win! So, we're back to stockpiling supplies for the pandemic. Next on the shot list - T and I. I'm thinking about bringing the girls and throwing a fit in front of them at the local Food Lion. I'm just not sure it will have the same effect!

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Halloween at Gordon

Lately I have been reading some hilarious stories about this guy's life up to now. They are great, and he's a great writer! I've really enjoyed them and they have stirred up some funny memories of my own. I'll spare you the long, drawn out life of mine, but I have been thinking a lot about Halloween - seeing as I'm the party room mother and organizing parties - and my days at Gordon - given that teaching is a theme in the above mentioned stories and that was also my major.

With these two things in mind, I was reminded of the controversy surrounding Halloween for Christians. It's a touchy subject, which is why I should have never chosen that as my topic for a persuasive speech in college, at Gordon, when I really didn't know enough about it... You see, growing up, we celebrate Halloween with gusto in my house!! Or should I say, ghosto!! For my dad, it was certainly a highlight of each year. He had a ghouly mask, a dark cape (actually his college graduation gown!) and plenty of creepy ideas. He would play his haunted sounds record and sneak around our house spooking us out. My dad LOVED to scare his sweet little children.

Growing up, my parents were the youth leaders at our tiny Baptist church we attended only a short, short walk from our house. Each year they would set up a haunted house in the creepy basement of either the hundreds of years old church or our own hundred year old house. The basement door at my parents house still has neon spraypainted warnings on it! As a child, I remember sneaking out on Mischief Night armed with bars of soap, toilet paper and old tube socks filled with flour. After a night a pure mischief (LOL), while we would head back home reviling in our childlike pranks, out of the bushes would jump this cross between Big Foot and my dad! I don't know that I've ever screamed so loud in my life!!

These event would all lead up to the "funnest" night of the year - Halloween! Never was there a mention of Satan, or pagans, or any other evil that might lurk outside. It was pure fun and sugar and we loved every minute of it. So why, as I went off to a christian college, would I be so bold, or so stupid, as to choose to give a speech on why we, as christians, should not celebrate halloween. Whatever possessed me?

Most of it, I guess, was my exploration of my faith, my new surroundings unlike anything I'd ever experienced in public school but also of the creepy feeling we would all get around Christmas just on the outskirts of Salem, Massachusetts. We were warned each year not to go to Salem, as witches from all over would flock to Salem to celebrate their high holy day. Stories would circulate around campus of ritual sacrifices found in the surrounding woods, of satanic displays found in dorm rooms, a crazy woman who lived in the area surrounding Gull Pond, and many more disturbing tales.

Halloween became evil to me there. In fact, I was sure something spiritual was stirring each year there. Every halloween that I was in college it rained. One year there was even a hurricane! Then my last year there, on the way to my pre-practicum in Lynn, I heard the most bizzare radio show. They had invited a Warlock onto the show, and right there while I listened he put a curse on the visiting baseball team. It was creepy!

My speech was a bomb, and I'm glad because I didn't really believe all the crazy facts I presented. Of course, there was plenty of material in that late 80's era of back masking and cult ritualism. In my heart, though, I knew there was some value to this "holiday", that it wasn't pure evil. Of course, my father may have taken it to an extreme and we don't aspire to that in our house! But we also don't lock ourselves up on Halloween, declaring that all our neighbors who partake in this ghoulish tradition are evil pagans. We welcome the opportunity to spend time with our neighbors, to meet our neighbors and to enjoy the children that this holiday brings to our door who might never find us otherwise.

In thinking about this subject, I came across and interesting article in Christianity Today that I found intriguing. Of course, the reference to those bad Gordon students who did not adhere to the warning to stay away from Salem was irresistable to me! I love it!! It challenged me to think about what my message is for Halloween, what can I teach my children about this tradition and how can we use it to reach out instead of pulling away. For this year, I'll skip mischief night. I'd rather not be cleaning up toilet paper and soapy windows for now! As christians, we have a message for those who do celebrate Halloween as a religious event. It's a message of hope and life, not fear and despair. I think that's what I want to display.

Support the Troops

I know I've mentioned this before, but I have a retired Army soldier for a cousin and his two sons have served/are serving in Iraq. As a family, we are super proud of them. The younger of the two just returned from almost a year of service in Baghdad and he suggested the site as a good way to offer support. Many soldiers serving do not receive support from home and he mentioned they regularly use that particular website for requests.

Whether or not you agree with the war on terror, I would encourage everyone to find some way to express your gratitude to men and women who choose to serve our country and defend our freedom in whatever way they are called. Their sacrifice, as well as their family's, is worth our small effort to encourage them and provide in some small way for their comfort. Please don't forget these men as we become more and more war weary back here in the comfort of warm homes with friends and family. You can't imagine what it does for the morale of soldier's to know that people back home remember them and pray for them, especially when they do not even know them.

Last year, T and I organized care packages twice to soldier's in our church who were serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. It's amazing to realize what these servicepeople are living through by the things that we were sending. I think I'm a bit more drawn to this mode of encouragement than T - he's not very interested at all! But I can assure you the effort was appreciated. If you have a minute, check out that site and the people who are registered on it. It's really a great opportunity to give back a little to a few deserving soldiers.

Advice from Mom

So, my update on my conversation with my mom about full day kindergarten. My mom has taught preschool, kindergarten, first grade and now second grade. She has over 20 years of experience under her belt, so when I have a question regarding education I go to her. I used to go to both of my parents, as my dad had over 35 years of experience and was his dissertation away from having his doctorate in administration.

My mom said this to me, "I can't believe you all are making such a big deal about this!" Sometimes we just need a mom to put things into perspective for us, don't we? Actually, she agreed that full day kindergarten was ridiculous, that it does cause redshirting, that it is becoming the norm because of the daycare need BUT that with the new No Child Left Behind standards full day was becoming academically necessary. Honestly, I don't really know that much about NCLB because that was not an issue when I taught. I believe I agree with the idea behind NCLB, but not with the funding nightmare it has caused. All that for another post!!

Last night I brought up this whole situation with our small group, which last night consisted only of two other couples, one woman who is also a teacher and another whose children will all have gone through full day kindergarten at another county school. She loved the program, so I really wanted some feedback from her, and I got excellent feedback from everyone!! We did eventually get to our study!

One of the things I recognize as a teacher and now as a parent is how easily a parent or group of parents can become "the enemy" in a situation like this. I don't want to be the parent who the entire school staff dreads when I walk through the front door. I don't want them whispering about me when I'm just within earshot or having teachers say, "Oh, I know who you are...." when I've never met them before! If we can't support teachers, whether we agree or disagree with them, we will be unwelcome in schools. Period.

This year I've had the very bizarre opportunity of having an open door with the senior kindergarten teacher. She was Kt's teacher two years ago and might be Em's next year. When the call came out this summer that she needed help, I went in. Since then she has called me to do some projects for her that she doesn't trust other parents doing. Nothing too exciting - just cutting out centers and putting folders together, etc. I then found out last week that my "Reading Pairs" assignment will be for the kindergarten teacher, the same one who has called me. Now, I'm a little suspicious, God, that You are somehow setting me up for something. Either that, or You're just giving me some boundaries for a possible ugly response to something I don't particularly agree with. So....

After last night here's my plan of attack: there won't be one, unless I find out that the teachers are concerned for some reason OR the classes will be too big. Those are really the only things that bother me. I'm resigned to the reality of full day kindergarten and the fact that it puts me one year closer to having to get a job (haha). I want to be a parent who serves because I do feel like that is what I'm designed to do. I don't want to jump on a bandwagon with a one-way ticket to obscurity, no longer welcome in school circles and never called by random teachers because I'm trustworthy. I also want my children to be in a situation where they will thrive, and that includes in my home where I don't want the atmosphere filled with contention. Kids are smart and they talk at school - I know this!

Enough said - of course, my mom may change her mind early next year and send me into a tailspin. It's happened, and mom's are allowed to do this. She has done it to me before. It'll be something like this, "I can't believe you all just sat around and let it get this bad!!!!" I'm 35 and I've experienced this kind of flip-flopping from my mom, so I think I'm ready. Only time will tell...

Monday, October 24, 2005

Sitemeter Jack-O-Lantern

Well, I posted the smile. Now check out my Jack-O-Lantern - just in time for Halloween!

Blogger Stalkers

I think I have some of these. They are people who appear on my sitemeter from various locations and seem to visit frequently but never identify themselves. I don't have a clue who they are!!

T was discussing this with our very proper English friend who was debating whether or not to sign up for Bloglines. His point was that if you frequent a blog, you might as well be polite and acknowledge this fact. On the other hand, we all do this!! I have a blog that I visit daily, whether or not the blog shows up on my bloglines as a new post. I like to read the comments other people leave, but I wouldn't dare leave one of my own comments. Ah, the intricacies of blogging...

Good night! Happy blogging!! Even happier commenting... or just enjoy stalking (smile).

To the State of Delaware...

I have only this to say: I'd pay any amount of sales tax if you would just take away your tolls!!

I've probably paid more in toll money to the state of Delaware than I've ever paid sales tax - at least it feels that way! Not only is it an exorbitant amount of money, it's the shortest state, the roads and interchanges are dreadful and they keep raising the tolls. I believe this weekend I paid them around $14 - of course I really didn't pay attention because of I have EZ Pass, which is sooo worth it in New Jersey! They have actually made an effort in New Jersey to make it worth your while by adding express EZ Pass lanes. That's a joke in Delaware, where traffic is so bad even the express lane is backed up, or it is so unclearly marked that it's really not an EZ Pass lane at all!

Enough about those bad, bad tolls...

We finally made it home, after breezing through CT, NY and NJ, thinking we'd be home in record time, we hit the mother load of traffic in Delaware. It was a nightmare. Was it Thanksgiving and I missed it??? We finally arrived home around 9:30 and got the girls to bed. We were all late this morning. T drove Kt to school late, I took Em in late then ran to Curves. When I got home our electric was out, thus leaving me locked out of the house. Long story!!

I'm finally inside, with electric. Having no electricity really changes your life, doesn't it? We are so dependent on electricity that it's almost painful to live without it. It's one of those things that we don't realize we are worshipping until we don't have it anymore!!! Well, OK, that's a bit drastic, but we really just expect that it will always be there, that it won't let us down, that there's some never ending supply of it. There are so many things that we do each day that depend on it.

It's funny when you don't have it, the things you find yourself doing. Like today, I immediately thought that my garage door opener was busted or the battery didn't work, until I tried the keypad to get in. Once I realized that I was trying to decide what else I could do while I waited. I needed to go to the grocery store, but I can't get the groceries inside or even in the refrigerator without electricity to sustain the cold food. Once I broke into my house, I had to run to the bathroom that had windows. When I went to get lunch for Em, we had limited options. No microwave, no groceries!, no toaster oven and one quick trip to the fridge, so she had to decide everything that she wanted. Then we had to find a well lit room for our puzzle time after lunch.

Now the electric is back on - lights, computer, action! It's really not a bad thing, having to live without electric a bit each day. It might teach us to appreciate it a little more, encourage us to engage in activities that don't require the use of such a precious and valuable resource, and it might even cause us to stop our busyness and enjoy the ones around us. Em and I had fun doing puzzles, sorting Girl Scout cookies and finding lunch foods. She was even happier that the electric came on just in time for me to make her chicken nuggets!!

Imagine no electricity at the toll booths! What a disaster that would cause in Delaware!

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Brilliant Fall Day

We are having to head home today, this brilliant fall New England day. The color is amazing. It's the first the sun has appeared all weekend, and it has changed the foliage into a shimmering, colorful backdrop of golds, reds and oranges. I was considering a quick trip to our favorite pumpkin patch but I'm not sure we'll make it.
We went to church today. There was a group there from Liberty University called Living Proof. They travel around the country presenting a program at public schools called Primary Focus. It sounds very interesting and like a great ministry opportunity for these college students. They give a year to this program. Interesting... I'm going to look them up.
The pastor this morning spoke from a series he's doing on the beatitudes. This weeks was "Blessed are those who hunger for righteousness, for they will be satisfied." He made some interesting points, good examples. He used the story of the woman at the well and talked about how Christ offered "water filled with life" that could satisfy the longing in her heart. I have heard many sermons on the woman at the well, really good sermons, but this particular time it struck me differently. I've heard whole sermons on "living water" but I'm not sure I've ever heard anyone say "water filled with life," but it certainly gave me a different perspective on this particular story. Christ came to "give life, and give it abundantly" and we should crave "water filled with life."
The pastor continued on about hunger and what it implies, a condition rather than a status, ongoing not a point you reach. We should be continually hungry for righteousness and our filling should come from Him. One suggestion he made was that "Christianity has nothing to offer those who do not hunger." I'm still mulling this one over, but I think it has a lot of truth when spoken in Fairfield County, Connecticut. It may be more relevant around here, but then again I think many people here assume that everyone in Fairfield County is affluent, and that is just not the case. They need to remove the scales from their eyes! The needs are great here, both physical and spiritual.
Lastly, for today, there was an ad at the beginning of the service for an event called Rock the Sound. They are trying to raise money for a Christian FM station in CT and are fundraising with a concert in Bridgeport. It sounds cool and I think the cause is quite worthy. Audio Adrenaline and the Newboys will be there. There really is a great need for Christian radio up here and I'm glad to see this kind of thing happening. Fun youth event!
Well, enough for now. I'm off to enjoy pizza, another staple in this place I call home, before heading home. I'm already dreading the drive and wishing I could stay a bit longer... we'll be back for Thanksgiving and I'm thinking of making a week out of it - YEAH! Maybe we'll make it to the farm then.

Saturday, October 22, 2005


My mom and I took the girls to see Dreamer today. We all loved it! It's definitely a feel good movie, very predictable, very kid friendly and a great ending (I won't spoil it). We each had our favorite part. I liked the part where... well, I just don't want to ruin it. I will tell you Em's favorite part. It went something like this:

I really liked in the beginning and I loved the ending. And I also liked
all that stuff, you know, in the middle, the rest of the movie.

My little animal lover liked it. Kt liked it, but I couldn't get her away from the life sized advertisement for Narnia - she is so interested in that movie. I'm thinking if we take her, we'll find something else for Em to do. I'm not sure she will understand it.
My mom really liked the movie. Movies in Connecticut are a staple. We hardly ever visit without going to the movies. My parents used to go all the time, there was rarely a movie they hadn't seen. In fact, T and I never wasted money on a movie without a review from them. My mom has started going to movies by herself. She said she's tired of waiting for my brother or his wife to want to go, so she just goes by herself. Which reminds me, I need to keep praying for a friend for my mom.
Dreamer was a great rainy day activity. We love Dakota Fanning and it was fun to see Kurt Russell again. While it had a lot of the same story elements of Racing Stripes, I think it was an easier watch for the girls. We might even buy this one for keeps!

Friday, October 21, 2005


We made it to Connecticut. Somehow. I was very, very sleepy so I'm pretty sure my car drove us here. Scary. I felt that strange "how did I get here" feeling a few times on the way, or the "where am I? did I miss my exit" feeling. It's a good thing there was no traffic. Rain, but not once we hit the Garden State Parkway.
The girls are enjoying their grandmother while I'm up here typing away. I'm pretty sure we will pick a place to go out for dinner, maybe do a little shopping, come home and hang out a bit. It's nice, familiar and relaxing. I love it! Sometimes I think I'd love to move here and other times I think I'd prefer it to remain my oasis. If I lived here, it wouldn't be this fun to come back!! This place would be filled with all my busyness instead of the nice, relaxing calm that we find. So now I'm off to enjoy my mom and listen to what she has to say about Full Day Kindergarten - I'll let you know later!

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Full Day Kindergarten

Well, reality has finally hit! It's pretty much a done deal that Em will be in full day kindergarten, as our elementary school seems fully committed to the switch for next year. To say that I'm disappointed would be an understatement, really, but I'll be a big girl and live with it. Other parents are starting to rumble, though, because the circumstances will be rather dismal for next year.

Our particular building has only two kindergarten classrooms and at least three will be needed. The school just had a major renovation construction proposal approved by the board which has caused them to halt all plans to renovate one room just for kindergarten. I'm not sure when that will begin, but it's pretty apparent that the ending date will be far past the opening day of school next year, meaning our kindergarteners will be separated from other classes. The older grades will be relegated to trailers, which is a bit of a concern for me, as Kt has asthma and these musty, mildewed carpeted trailers pose a health problem for her. Once again, the push is for the school to exceed the requirement for all Kindergarten to be full day in Maryland by the 2007-2008 school year instead of meeting the needs of all students.

I'm a little cynical about issues such as this. We had a situation last year where we were basically forced to move our daughter to another classroom because her reading level was drastically above where they thought it was. We disagreed, met with the new principal, vice principal and classroom teacher. The case was presented to us as a "must move" or we would not be doing what was in the best interest of our child, basically that we, the parents, would be neglectful of the needs of our child because they could not provide the appropriate reading group in the class in which they placed her. It was totally absurd. I was completely insulted as a parent, former teacher, daughter of two teachers, that they would suggest that I didn't have a clue what was best for my child. They further stated that their primary concern for my child was meeting her academic needs, that social, emotional and physical needs were secondary if at all considered. I think they understand now how I feel about that! What I saw, as a greatly insulted parent, was that my child would pay the price for my unwillingness to comply with their need to even out the class number for an entire year, thus making our lives miserable. So we went along with this plan and will not do so again.

That being said, I ask this school administrator, are we really doing what's best for these children academically??? by forcing a drastic change before we a physically capable??? Here are some facts:

1) The ratio of students to teachers will be 22:1 - That's insane for full day kindergarten! and I'm worried the chances of that happening are slim. Kt had 60+ students in her K in three 1/2 day classes. When they bumped up to first grade, 36 new students appeared whose parents had sent them to full day K to meet the needs of their family. What if, and it's highly likely, more than 66 children register for free full day K next year? I doubt they will hire another teacher AND there wouldn't be anyplace to put the class if they did!!

2) The original date for our school, Clemens, to be full day was projected for the 2007-2008 school year - Why? because we aren't equipped for this change. Our building isn't physically ready. We don't have enough classroom space and we aren't a priority school for construction. Last fall, somehow our school was pushed ahead a year - and that entire year passed with no significant progress to in solving the space problem. I think that's outrageous. Anytime I asked either the kindergarten teachers or the principal about this, they would reply that they didn't know anything. WHAT?

3) Other county schools in more affluent areas have never had to use trailers, have significantly more classroom space, are newer AND have had new classrooms added to them already and have much smaller student to teacher ratios. T and I discussed this, with his ranting about that's how middle class is, no benefit of having mountains of money and influence, no benefit of being so low on the totem pole that we might qualify for grants or government money. We are the forgotten middle.
4) The bathroom issue - I had always been under the impression that kindergarteners were to have their own bathroom contained in the classroom for safety reasons. Next year, one class will not have this benefit and will have to not only enter the hallway to use the shared restroom, they will likely have to pass through three 4th grade classes because of the ridiculous pod set up. I'm not sure what the policy is one this particular issue, and while it's not of great concern to me, some of the parents are really "freaking out" on this particular issue.

I am, from a teaching standpoint, against full day kindergarten. I don't feel that children at this age need a full day of school. Developmentally, there is such a wide range of ability and this range changes at different rates for each child that I think optimal class size is 15:1. That is utopian, but anything over 20:1 would require full time aid if all the needs were to be met for each student at this level. The purpose of kindergarten is to introduce children to the idea of school, to develop social skills and to introduce academic material. It was never meant to be competitive or overly academic, until now. (An interesting read about this subject here.)

My big question is really why rush this? Why not wait until we are better equipped for this change? I've gotten interesting responses, like "watch out who you vote for next time!", or "NCLB is forcing us to do this" to "because we have to." Last time I checked, George Bush wasn't forcing Clemens to change to full day kindergarten a year before schedule, NCLB didn't have a Clemens clause and I don't remember hearing anyone say we HAD to do this early. I'm guessing someone at Clemens "offered" to do this for visibility - I could be wrong! It just seems so poorly planned, or thought out.

My even bigger question is for the state of Maryland, who is "forcing" all counties to comply with this full day kindergarten initiative or else be left out of the extra funding for it: why is this so important? Why not offer parents the option of full OR half day kindergarten? More and more often parents are being treated as though they do not understand how to meet the needs of their own children, power is being stripped from parents in making educational decisions for the children they have poured their lives into. I'm being a little dramatic, but I'm really tired of teachers and administrators snickering at me, as a parent, like I don't know what I'm talking about. There's always that collective groan when I reveal that I'm one of them, an educator, and I have a pretty good idea what I'm talking about. I want to know, why don't I know what is best for my child or at least better than the State of Maryland does?

I am hearing conversations, even joining in on some, about what we are going to do next year. People are talking homeschooling, private schooling, complaining, petitions, and even compliance! (haha) It will be interesting. I have thought this through, in fact, I've been thinking about it longer than most of these parents. I had been told when I was in the hospital delivering Kt that she would among the first Maryland students to be in full day kindergarten. Yes folks, long before President George W. Bush and NCLB there was a full day kindergarten agenda and I'm assuming it was driven by a child care need, not an educational one! Being a teacher, I had already decided, before Kt even breathed her first breath, that I would seek alternate education before sending my child to full day kindergarten. (So dramatic, I am!)

The truth is, if it were to be done properly, adequately, with the best interest of my child being of utmost importance, I wouldn't have a problem with this plan. I just don't see that happening, so I'm concerned. What am I left with? I guess I just have to pray and leave it up to God because right now, I'm feeling quite helpless.

If interested, read this blog about this very subject. Very interesting...


The girls and I are escaping for a weekend to rainy, cold New England! We are escaping from:

-too many commitments
-a house in need of cleaning!
-telephone calls from people who want us to do thing for them or give them money that we don't have!
-two bathrooms that are in desperate need of being finished! (haven't had a shower for 3 months in my master bath - UGH!)

We are escaping to:
-grandma's house!
-Uncle D and Aunt J - they are so fun!
-a weekend of researching Connecticut for Kt's state project
-the movies! I think we are going to take the girls to see Dreamer
-be spoiled!

We will miss:
daddy! he has to work all night Saturday night - boo!

We will return to:
-lots of work, cleaning and commitments - you know, LIFE!

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Sitemeter Smiley

I think this is kind of funny. It's sort of like a lopsided smiley! Not too bad for a new blog, I guess??

Things that make you go "Hmmmm....."

Is Starbucks going rightwing evangelical on us? Very interesting little article. Too bad I don't do Starbucks!

Yes, I'm getting stuff done around here!

Mickey vs. Wilma

Today when I picked up Em at preschool, I ran into another student's au paire. She was around last year so I do know her. She mentioned they are leaving tomorrow for Disney World - I immediately felt a tinge (alright, a big pang!) of jealousy. They are staying at the Wilderness Lodge - we've never done that. We've eaten there, but never stayed there. This au paire has never been, she's from Germany and she's super sweet. She has extended her stay with this particular family three times now! It's a great fit.

Anyway, as I'm rambling on to her how much fun it's going to be, how magical it is, how it will be perfect because school's in, it's not Christmas there yet, etc. it suddenly occurs to me that Wilma just turned into the largest storm in Atlantic Basin history of hurricanes. Hmmm... I mentioned this to her and she said they were a little worried. Hmmm... well, I'm still a little jealous! I must be crazy.

Have you ever wondered....

(or even noticed) why the word "blog" appears as incorrect on Blogger's spellcheck? Just wondering.

Busy, busy, busy...

But not too busy to blog! I am right now making cupcakes for Kt's class tomorrow - goodbye party for the student teacher. After that, I'm going to throw in a load of laundry, make copies for Brownies today - I'm in charge, then I have to pull all that stuff together, I also have to finish the folders for the kindergarten teacher, complete my last Beth Moore study for tonight's bible study, make hamburgers so T can cook them when he gets home and.... have I forgotten anything?? I hope not! I've already run Em to school and home, made it to Curves, posted one blog, answered some email, read some email, made lunch, started the cupcakes and cleaned up the kitchen. Still to do before Friday (when we leave for CT!!!!): more laundry, clean up the house, wash the sheets - we need to break out the flannel so we can hold off on turning on the heat!, and OH YEAH - I still need to hop in the shower today. How long can we keep this up? I'm exhausted just from writing all this. I guess I'll have to skip the nap, though;)!

Where to?

Yesterday Em and I took T out to lunch. It was supposed to be a trip to the bank, but things at work were crazy so we skipped the bank and had a very quick lunch. While at McDonald's (I did say VERY quick!), T looked at me and said, "Do you want to go to -------- this summer?" Now, --------- is a country where our church has a missionary family and we know this family pretty well. We've had many discussions about taking a team to this particular country, none of them all that positive. After I sat there, with my "Ummmmmm" face T looked at me and said, "I don't want to go their either, but they REALLY want us to come."

Now, I don't want to hurt anybody's feelings, so I'm not going to mention who this family is - we love them! It's just that there are so many things to consider, I think, when we are taking kids under the age of 18 outside of the country. This is the first summer we are actually considering taking our own children with us - sort of an experiment. It would be my first missions trip out of the US since I went to Acapulco during college (yes, it was really a missions trip - haha)! T and I have many discussions about different countries and why or why not we would take a group there.

Here are some of our thoughts - I won't tell you who came up with these:

1. Do we take a group of under 18's to a country that is closed to missions? I worry sometimes that we might put missionaries in compromising positions. Kids that age don't always practice constraint, especially in new and uncomfortable situations. We are especially concerned when taking very affluent, suburban kids into conditions that are adverse or full of poverty. I mean, if we want to expose them to that, we can take them to any city in the US! I think it's a bit drastic when we take them out of the country, to a place where they don't know the culture and language and ask them to "help" these people. They have no context for that, and a short term trip really isn't helpful to anyone.

2. Are the missionaries we are serving aware of what they are getting themselves into? We've had some missionaries specifically ask for high school age kids because they LOVE to work with them. I'm pretty comfortable with that. But there are others that I'm not so sure about. After talking with them, they are used to college age groups who are comfortable around college age and above people, or they've only had older adult groups. High school groups are different. Period. I'm not really sure how to explain that to a missionary.

3. Can a group we take really enhance what the missionaries in said country are trying to create? Many times, the answer to this is yes. Sometimes, though, it's just not a good match. It's hard to answer this one until you have a group and you know the needs. Typically, for us, this all comes together somewhere around May or June - we are a bit behind!!

4. Is the country safe? When an old group of 18+ year olds go away, parents see things differently (kind of) then when a minor is traveling. These days, it's not exactly a wonderful thing to be an American when traveling abroad. On my missions trip to Acapulco (really, it was!), the US invaded Iraq for the first time while I was away. It was uncomfortable. We went from being these cool Americans one day, to being some war-mongering enemy the next. It was weird, and that wasn't even in a Muslim nation. I have some serious reservations about taking high schoolers into Muslim nations - am I crazy? or just thinking like a mother??

5. Expense - I can't say I've actually brought this one up with T yet. It is getting incredibly expensive to travel, especially for a group for 10 days. Can we spend that money more usefully somewhere else? Each year it has become more difficult to raise the $$ we need. We've gone from cup overfloweth to counting pennies. Last summer we a tad bit behind, but covered expenses with the year before's overflow. I don't want to abandon missionaries around the world, because I truly believe it is well worth it to minister along side them, and it's really an extraordinary experience for these kids, or we wouldn't be doing it. I'm just wondering if we shouldn't really decide if a trip is affordable, safe enough or helpful enough before going.

Which brings me to my last point: prayer.

I firmly believe that none of these things really matter if God is calling you to go. T and I sit around coming up with as many reasons for "to go or not to go" that we sometimes miss the mark here. We need to pray more. And more. And more. Last year we wasted a bunch of time trying to decide whether or not to go to Brazil. I didn't actually go, but I was here for every discussion about it! We didn't know what to do until we finally committed it to prayer wholeheartedly. We finally decided to let God decide and we got this incredible email from the this family that really said what we were looking for, and we just knew we had to go.

God can handle the little details that we pine over, in fact He wants to handle them, His way. I'm really looking forward to what God has in store for next summer. If it's scary, then it's scary, but only because we look at it the wrong way. If our focus is glorifying Him, how can we go wrong? I'm not saying it will be a perfect trip, but I know we can count on a character building experience, whatever that may be. I'll keep you all posted about where we end up going, as soon as God let's us know!

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

More pics of Pabu

This is my dad, "Pabu," as Kt started calling him when she was 1. This is his first summer after chemo, surgery and more chemo. He sadly rarely smiled like this unless the girls were around, so we frequently made trips up to CT. While Em doesn't remember him much, she used to love to sit with him in his chair. The girls would pick up M&M's on the way to CT and share them with him - a favorite treat. That's my dad's TV chair!

This is my dad dancing with Kt at my brother's wedding. It's the last day that remember my dad being truly happy. We aren't really sure how he made it through the day. We gave him the morning off to rest, so he went over to the hotel where all the guests were staying and had breakfast with his sister and her family and anyone else he could round up. He then came home for a short nap and went over to the church. He and I read scripture together in the service, he made it through a photo session and then onto the reception. The rest of us were exhausted, he just kept on dancing.

I love this picture, because Kt had so much fun with him that day. My dad beamed the entire day, his last child getting married to someone who has been a part of our family longer than T! The Monday after the wedding my dad entered Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in NYC for an autonomous stem cell transplant. This was really his last amazing day!

I Saw a Sign...

Well, that's a slight exaggeration! One more little blurb for now about my dad. Last summer I found myself, once again, thinking of my dad. I wondered a bit what it was like for him in heaven. What was he doing? I often found great comfort after he died when I was worshipping in church. I think I felt closer to him, thinking he was probably doing the same thing I was. I fell in love with the song "Angels" on the Hillsong CD Hope. The end of that song, a repititious "Jesus" is the most beautiful sound.

This one particular day I had dreamed of him the night before. Most likely this was due to the intense questioning the night before by Em. She has started doing this again recently, which may be why I was thinking of him again! Anyway... I was driving along route 32 East (for anyone who might know) having a short conversation with God about my dad. I felt so silly. I was asking really ridiculous questions like, "Are you taking care of my dad?" DUH! and "Is my dad OK?" DOUBLE DUH! and lastly, "Sorry for being so stupid but I just miss him! and I'm checking in on him!"

Feeling really silly, there I was pulling off of route 32 onto route 1, one of those cloverleaf exits, and as I am pulling over onto route 1, the route 1 traffic is crossing over in front of us to get onto route 32 (confused yet?) and there, right in front of me, crosses this huge fuel type truck. It is huge, silver and says only one thing on it. You'll never believe what it says, because I didn't either. It said, "RUDY" in green, with a green pasture looking thing under it. That was the only thing it said. I've never seen a Rudy truck before, because if I had I would have laughed. My dad's name was Rudolph, and we had lots of fun with that name. He was known to everyone as Rudy.

Now, maybe I'm exaggerating here, but I almost cried when I saw that. You know, God can do anything he wants. That day, he gave me a truck with a name on it and it meant something to me. You might think it's a coincidence, and I don't really care if you do, but God told me that he knows my dad, that He's taking care of him maybe in green pastures? Who knows! I was immediately humbled, though, because I don't ever really ask for signs and I think I might have that morning, probably why I felt to silly. I didn't doubt where my dad was, I didn't doubt that he was being taken care of, I just felt lonely. I missed him. And I think God really cared about that.

My Dad - part II

This is the only picture I have on my computer right now of my dad. This picture was taken at Kt's spring ballet recital. I'm guessing you know which one my dad is!! He's the glowing grandfather. Not that they both aren't, but he was particularly drawn to his granddaughters. This picture was taken weeks before he became violently ill, which we later found to be Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. Sadly, Em's only memory of my dad is visiting him in the hospital. That would have been the week before he died. She had just turned two. It's amazing she even remembers that.

Here's a funny - the last thing my dad said to me coherently was, "Keep busy." I guess I listened to him!

My Dad

I've been thinking a lot about my dad recently. This morning under my "Gideon" post, Jeremy DelRio commented and it just made me think of him again! My dad was a Gideon when I was younger and I really never knew what that meant. I mean, everyone knows if you've ever stayed in a hotel that the Gideons provide Bibles for hotels/motels. I'm not really sure how my dad was involved in this ministry, the only story I remember was how at a Gideon luncheon he mistakenly used the women's restroom - funny story, especially if you know my dad! That's about the extent of my knowledge of this, though.

Abbreviated version: I loved my dad!

The full story: read on:

My father was born just outside of Chicago, Illinois, in a town named Midlothian. His father was from Chicago I think and his mom was originally from Scotland. She immigrated to the U.S. when she was 16. It wasn't until I was in high school that it occurred to me that my dad's mom probably spoke with a Scottish brogue, like his aunt who I knew. His mom died when my dad was 16 so I never met her. My dad actually could do a pretty good scott accent. His advice: talk with your teeth clenched. It worked for him!

My father's earliest claim to fame was his birthweight, weighing in at 2.5 pounds. Of course, I'm only going based on what I've heard! His father was serving in Germany during World War I at the time. His mother had had several miscarriages previously, so she was well taken care of back at home. My dad was in the hospital for a couple months before coming home.

At the age of 4 or 5, my dad made the front page of the newspaper. He was waiting in line for rationed beef. It's a funny little article and to the day he died he remembered having that picture taken. He was an average size for a boy his age, so his "prematurity" must have been quickly dashed.

Another of his fondest memories from childhood was owning the first television on the block. Unfortunately, TV would become a centerpiece for the rest of his life. It's a stronghold I think everyone in my family has had to overcome, due to the fact that my dad kept it on at all times. My dad recalled his father setting up the TV on their front porch for all the neighbors to watch. If my dad had had the first of anything, I could totally have seen him doing exactly the same thing!

When my dad was 17 his father remarried a woman with four children. While I think my dad enjoyed the camaraderie with his new stepbrothers and stepsister, it was short lived as he was heading off to college. With the extra burden at home, his father was unable to help him with college. His grandmother, a seemingly progressive single woman, Grandma McGowan, helped finance college by offering to match anything he made while away. So, my dad headed off to The King's College in Briarcliff Manor (it's now in the Empire State Building!) with his car that could not go in reverse (more funny stories!) to begin college and his foundling career at McDonald's.

It would appear his years of organ lessons also paid off, as he landed a job playing the organ at college chapel. He also landed a wife, yes, my mom. She was formerly engaged to an acquaintance of his who tragically died in a car accident. After earning his degree in history and spot in Who's Who (not really sure what good that did him!), he headed off for Moody Bible Institute back in Chicago, quite certain that he was called to be a pastor.

I wish I knew more about what God did in his life that year, but we never really talked about that. We talked about EVERYTHING else, but not that. Anyway... after a year at Moody, my mom told him either they get married or "seeya." She was teaching in Stratford, CT living with her parents in Fairfield. He dropped everything and came to CT, got his masters in teaching and started his lifelong career teaching middle school English and History for Norwalk Public Schools, which is considered "inner city" for Connecticut.

I don't know if he gave up the pastoring career for love, but in many ways I think he definitely chose the right path here. My father was born to be a teacher. It was truly his lifeblood. My aunt and uncle would always tell their friends, "Whatever you do, don't bring up education or history with Rudy. You won't be able to shut him up!" It was so true. Those two subjects could keep him going for hours. But there were other subjects...

The World Wrestling Federation (we teased him relentlessly about this), football, Revelations, anything having to do with Biblical history, financial planning, retirement planning, vacation planning, college financial planning, where to buy the cheapest gas, where to buy the cheapest anything!, how to raise a family of five on a teacher's salary in Fairfield, CT, how to lead an overcomitted life and raise a family at the same time (so that's where I get it!), and so on. You name it, he had something to say about it. I know about all these things because my dad stayed up every night until each of his children was home. When I was in college, he would wait up until I got in when I was coming home for a weekend. We would stay up until 3 or 4 just talking, about everything. I cherish those early morning hours I spent with him.

I learned a lot about my dad and he taught me more than I could ever write in a blog. I'm not even sure I could fit it all in a book. There are many things my dad didn't do as a father, but I found something he loved to do and I took advantage of that. He loved to talk, and I learned to listen. Picture this: I arrive home at 2:30 am, after working until 11 pm and driving from MA home after a long week at school. When I get home, I see the familiar glare of the TV through the window of the dark house I lovingly call home. I know when I get up to the door that my dad will be sitting in his favorite chair, wherever it might have been moved while I was away at school these past months. Yup, there he is, arm up over his head in his uniquely strange TV watching position. He's sound asleep until he hears me come in, then wakes up and pretends that he is engrossed in his favorite TV show. He'll tell me what it is as soon as the infomercial is over. I bring to him all my stories and quandaries from the last month away at Gordon and he listens like a good father, one eye on the TV, one eye on me. He listens, he ponders, I think, "He doesn't have a clue what I just told him. I must be boring him to death. Time for both of us to go to bed." Just as I go to get up, he starts pouring wisdom out of nowhere. I just soak it up because I want to know him more and more. College is fun but draining, it's exciting but makes me a tad bit homesick, enlightening but creates questions in me that only can be answered by someone I really trust, who I know is wise. That's my dad.

There's so much more to tell, but fast forward to now. It's been 2 1/2 years since my dad joined his father and Father in heaven. I have a peace about this that is beyond all understanding. When I recall how I sat my dad's feet, pouring out most of my soul and hoping for a wise response, I'm reminded that I can still do that with my heavenly Father. I feel so incredibly blessed to have had the opportunity to get to know my dad so well before he died. I miss him terribly. I ache for my brother and sister, whose children will never have met him. But it's a great privilege to have known my dad, and I'm thankful that God gave me that experience.

So, Gideon, for now, that's just a reminder that I still have a lot to learn about my dad. I'm curious now and so happy that I'll see him again. In my father's death, I was reminded of the sacrifice that God made in sending His son, so that we can have eternal life. In my father's death, that reality had new meaning for me. I can now rejoice in my father's life as a whole person and someday see him whole again. I might ask him why he was a "Gideon" or I might not have to. That remains to be seen!

Monday, October 17, 2005


T and I just went to see this movie tonight. I thought it was pretty good! I know the reviews aren't that sterling, but the movie was suspenseful, quick-paced, not as predictable as some are suggesting and well acted. Jodie Foster was wonderful. It was a far cry from the movie we rented last night, The Kingdom of Heaven, about the crusades. That movie was difficult to follow, had poor dialogue and was lacking in drama, but provided sufficient blood. I guess I'm more the drama than the war/battle type. However, I'm thinking I might want to go see that movie, Jarhead... Sounds interesting...

Pink to Black

It's official, it's time, I give in! Autumn is officially here to stay. Now, for those of you who love fall and the following season of death, you may have already gladly given in. For me, I hold onto every ounce of Spring and Summer that I can. I still am carrying around my pink bag and I hate to give it up, but I think it's time to drag out the black.

It all started when I got in the car today, ready for Curves, in my shorts and T-shirt. Fortunately, T had enough sense to dress our children appropriately! I did notice on the way into preschool when I dropped off Em that most of the other moms had already embraced the idea that Summer is over. Everyone had on long pants, sweaters, jackets and were sporting warm, steaming cups of coffee. Every hue of green, orange and gold were visible with the occassional burst of burgandy. They are all my favorite colors, when they are in their springy shades! There are leaves everywhere, on the trees, on the street, piled up in yards, in my car. Everywhere I go I see pumpkin patches, dried cornstalks, funny scarecrows, and there's even the extremities of a skeleton reaching out from our neighbor's front yard (creepy). So here I am, on October 16, finally throwing in the (beach) towel. I guess fall is here and I better start acting like it!

Well, I'm off to the grocery store for my last trip of the season with my pink handbag. I'm going to stock up on cold and flu meds before I can't find them anymore. I'm armed with my "most valuable pandemic items" list that T started for me to see what I can tackle today. And off we head, for a fall/winter of flu. I think I need to move to a tropical region, for my sanity!

Sunday, October 16, 2005


Well, I've just about had my fill of Gideon for the week! Do you ever feel like God has something to say and He doesn't want you to miss it? Well, this is it for me I think. Last week I began Beth Moore's Breaking Free study with my small women's group. I've done it before but am looking forward to tackling it again with a different group of women. The entire first video, the introduction, is all about Gideon. Beth Moore is very insightful. I could listen to her speak for hours and not get bored. She is a great teacher.

Today at church Scott Brown was speaking. Now, I find this strange because last week I mentioned him on my blog. I love it when he speaks - no offense to Mark Norman, who is an extraordinary pastor, but Scott Brown is a great fill in. His message today was all about Gideon, and it was really spectacular to hear a story from the perspective of a Jew. It just makes so much more sense, so many more insights I would have never picked up on had I just read this story myself.

So, what is God trying to tell me? Interestingly, a little bit of what Beth Moore and Scott Brown said together, probably. Scott mentioned the significance of the angel of the Lord having Gideon "pour out" the broth on his sacrifice (among the MANY other things he brought up!). This particular point coincides with the whole idea of Breaking Free. Beth and Scott both made the point that God can use us only when we are emptied, or poured out. In fact, He prefers us to be broken, contrite, not full of ourselves but emptied so He can fill us. In Scott's illustration, he explained that the broth was the most valuable part of a meal because it took the longest to prepare. It's the part of the meal that we slave over, we put our best into and be asked to pour out our best effort is God basically telling us He can't use what we put our human effort into the way He can use us if we are filled with Him. It has to be His effort to be of value to Him.

This was a real challenge to me, not because I haven't heard of this idea before, but because I needed the reminder. It's perfect as a starting point for Breaking Free, which is likely why Beth Moore uses the same story to begin the study! Duh! But hearing Scott's message today really hammered that into my brain. How many times do we just do things we are good at and expect that that is acceptable to God? How often have I thought to myself, "I could never do that! I'm so much better at..." and headed off in the wrong direction? What are the things I am doing right now that are useless to God?

Scott Brown said (and I find this SO true) we define our lives these days by the things that we do. Instead of being "human BEings" we are "human doings". God is more interested in our character than in our activities. He would rather we become what He wants us to be rather we do the things we think He wants us to do. Instead of searching God's will for what we should "do" in life we should be searching for God's will in who we become.

Some great points to ponder as I start this study. I hope I can really ingrain some of these truths into my everyday thinking, decision making, learning to say "no" strategies! I'm guessing they will put Scott's message online this week if anyone's interested...

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Extreme School Makeover

So we got up early, at least early for us!, this morning to run over to a local elementary school to do some sprucing up! Our church started this last year with about 5 or 6 schools. They organize a few hundred volunteers to go landscape a school. It was a huge success last year, T and I heard all about it... but were unable to participate. This year we decided to join in.

Of course, like everything else at our church it seems, this year was an expanded version. We added more schools and I believe another church, maybe two. I'm not totally sure, I don't know all the details, we only knew where to go and when. We ended up at Swansfield Elementary school with LOTS of other volunteers, including many parents who belong to that school's PTA. I even ran into an old friend from teaching whose children go to Swansfield. Here were some interesting observations I made, I'll let T analyze them later with his intellectual flair!

1) The school had advertised on their school sign "Extreme School Makeover," the principal was there (very young, very involved, I'm very impressed with his landscaping skills), a school board member showed up, but none of the parents seemed to have a clue who all the strange people were who were there helping them! A banner had been taped up that read "Building Bridges" and then very tiny "Grace Cares" and even smaller "Grace Community Church". I really liked all this. First of all, the fact that our church was doing this was minor, not heavily advertised. Secondly, it gave Grace people the opportunity to answer the "Who are you and why are you here" question. Lastly, it does wonders for our humility. We're trying to show Jesus, not necessarily a church, to a community. If we are always screaming "that's my church" instead of living so people wonder who we are, no one is going to get it. Around Howard County, lots of people go to lots of different churches, no biggie!

2) The sheer volume of people helping was overwhelming. As we pulled in (late, of course) another couple we know was leaving. They had been "reassigned" because there were no jobs left. We found several small jobs to jump on while we were there, but we heard from others that there were just as many volunteers at other locations. There were more volunteers than jobs! Now, for someone who just wanted to come to work, that might have been annoying, but for those of us who like a little social action it was kind of fun. I got to work with people I had never met before from Grace, talk to my friend who I haven't seen in a while and hang out with my kids on the first beautiful day we've had in a couple weeks. "Building Bridges" isn't really about landscaping, it's about relationships.

3) Resources - I cannot believe the amount of resources that can be pulled together for one day of landscaping. It seemed like there were unlimited amounts of shovels, rakes, hammers, trucks, dirt, mulch and plants - at least it seemed that way! God was so gracious with us today - great weather after 8+ days of rain, plenty of hands and lots of "stuff" to work with.

I hope we leave a mark today in this community that has God's fingerprints on it - not ours. I have gone to many different churches and Grace has always stood out to me as one that is such a pleasure to serve with. There are many reasons for that, but mostly because the credit goes to God, because we "serve an audience of one." I don't have a clue who organized this whole event, I barely even know who my group coordinator was. That's not the important thing. I like that.

Now I'm off to get some outdoor chores done. I left T mowing the lawn and cleaning up after my edging work! I guess I better go help before he finds me!!