July 31, 2010

For All Those Who Gotta Have It...

I bought my OPI Pink Flamenco Nail Polish with a gift certificate my folks gave me to a local spa.  You can buy it at Amazon.com for far less... starting at $2.65.  Just click here and it will magically take you to that great page.  Enjoy, ladies!

Pink

The other evening, while we were waiting for dinner to cook, Elisabeth and I decided we needed some bright Flamingo pink on our nails.
While we waited for our nails to dry, we had a little chat.
And when Brianna came along with the camera, I asked her what is it like to have toes so adorable, people can't resist taking pictures of them?

July 29, 2010

The Trouble With Teenagers...

Forever In Blue Jeans

I am joining Carin at Forever in Blue Jeans for her weekly challenge to get mom in the picture.  If you've not been in the picture this week, it's not too late!  Here's my four step plan to recovery.  1-Grab the camera 2- grab a kid 3- take a shot 4-post it!  You can't ask for easier than that.  I can't wait to see you in the picture.

The Trouble With Teenagers...  Is they are so easily influenced.

You are sitting in the rocker minding your own business and you happen to mention painting the living room and the next thing you know they're sitting on your piano...

And your house looks like this... 

And your kids look like this...
And even though you swore you would not help in anyway, you end up with a brush in your hand and your manicure is ruined.
And everyone is singing and laughing and having fun while getting the job done.

Before too long, you've forgotten your heart was ever heavy to begin with.  And it you ask me that's the trouble with teenagers. 

Until next week,

July 28, 2010

Aedan's Favorite Bible Books

Tonight, at dinner, we were talking about what everyone learned in their Bible reading today.  Aedan told me his three favorite books of the Bible are:

Genesis- because he knows a lot of stuff in Genesis.

Job- because it talks about dinosaurs.

Proverbs-because it has little secret hidden treasures of wisdom that you can't find by just looking at it; you have to learn them. 

I love this summer Bible reading challenge our family is doing.  It started out as just something I was going to do and now everyone who reads in our home is deep into it.

How exciting it is to hear my eight year old say he read eleven chapters of his Bible during his quiet time this afternoon when he has struggled with reading for two years!

I am also amazed at how much more the little guys seem to be absorbing reading so much on their own.  I have been stopped dead in my tracks more than once by one of the boys applying some principle they picked up in their reading.  And we won't even go into what they have learned from their study of Proverbs since April!

The other day we were doing chores and Aedan came up missing.  When he reappeared he said that he was sorry that he didn't come back right away but Nathaniel was doing his Bible study and he asked Aedan to explain something to him.

What about you?  What are you studying now?  How has God stopped you in your tracks?  What amazing things have you gained from your daily time in the Word?

July 27, 2010

Thanks For Asking...

Allen and I have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of love in the past few weeks.  We are humbled... and encouraged... and uplifted by the letters, cards, emails, comments, flowers, meals, phone calls... and more from our church family, friends... and even Christian brethren we've met only through the blog world.  As we shared with our church family last week, we have felt tightly wrapped in a blanket of prayer that has showed us the face of our Lord and healer... at a time that we've known pain we didn't think possible.  It seems too simple and trite to simply say "thank you", but I there are no other words to adequately express what we feel.

It is inexplicable how we can all at once feel such joy and sadness, but there it is.  Sadness in the loss of Gussie.  Joy in the amazing ways we have seen our Lord through His mighty works and through the love of those He has put in our life. Sadness in the moments we will never know with our child.  Joy in the promise that He is, even at this moment, with the Lord.  Joy at the guarantee that we will see Him again in eternity.

Email... phone call... face to face.  Everyone asks the same question.  How are we doing?  What can I say?  Sometimes, I can get out the words.  Physically, I'm not feeling too bad.  It's all the rest I wish I could get past.  Most of the time, all I can do to reply is nod my head.  Those who know me understand what it means. 

I cry.  A lot.  But not as much as I did a week ago.

Above all, I want life to be normal.  Yet, many days, I can't get my mind to focus long enough to accomplish even the simplest of tasks.

I am grateful that I can sleep better these days.  More than the four hours I did in the first week.  Some mornings I wake and I have to will myself to stop lying there thinking and get out of bed.

I hate to see people and yet, I am everlasting grateful for those who have been there before and know better than me and visit anyway.  Sitting to talk about plain-every-day-normal-old-fashioned life.

I want to forget about everything and just move on.  Still, I am grateful for those who have been there before and know better and share their stories and listen to me pour out my heart and cry with me for a while.

I can't seem to reconcile the part that one day we are rejoicing at the baby growing among us and the next moment I am no longer pregnant... but unlike seven times before there is no little one to fill our arms.  I want to be pregnant more than anything.  I want to never be pregnant again.

I have held the hand of so many when they were suffering loss and dealing with grief.  Mourning.  Hurting.  I have told them it's good to cry.  Normal.  Healthy.  Yet, I feel anything but normal and healthy.  I am sick of crying.

I try to move on and the simplest of things bring it all back.  Like a rainstorm yesterday.  What used to bring me great joy, moved me to tears.  Again.  My husband asked if I would always cry when it rains.  And the only answer I could give is the only one that I can give for anything these days.  "I don't know."

I am tired of the roller coaster.  Laughing one minute at the delight of the little ones around us.  Crying the next for the one who will never be here.

Yet, never for one minute have we not felt the Lord surrounding us.  Holding us up.  Caring for our broken hearts.  Wiping our tears.  Never have we doubted that His will has been done.  That it is for His glory.  For a greater plan which we can't yet understand.  Maybe, will never understand. 

What more can we ask for?  So, thanks for asking... We're Okay.

July 26, 2010

Oh, Summer! How I Love Thee. Let Me Count The Ways...

Sunflowers, planted all around by little hands. At last they show their cheerful heads to brighten our days with the promise of a yummy treat come fall.

July 25, 2010

Oh, Summer! How I Love Thee. Let Me Count The Ways...

Blooms on the butterfly bush... that at almost any given time I have counted up to 100 butterflies resting and eating.

This fragrant bush provides a beautiful privacy screen for the deck off of our bedroom and also a cool place to read on a hot summer day.  


July 24, 2010

Mole Hunting

Since the first spring we lived in this house, eight years and counting, we have had an ongoing war with moles. We were happy to coexist with the critters when their destruction was limited to our side yard and lawn, but when they moved into my gardens, that was a different story.

We have tried just about every remedy you can imagine.  From mole bait and traps to chewing gum and peanuts to even calling the exterminator in.  Yet, each year their damage grows worse and worse, as the elusive rodents continue to evade us.  Even our cat, try as she might, can not get deep enough to get those pests.

A few weeks ago, we were leaving for church when one actually surfaced.  Allen ran for his shovel, and I will spare you the rest of the details.  Let it suffice to say, mole- 0 Pa- 1.  A few days later the kids were playing in the yard when they called frantically for Pa to come with the shovel.  He did and the score was upped to mole-0 Pa-2.

How do you like that?  He's better than the cat!
That's not the best part, though.  A while later, after everything had calmed down and all had returned to their work, I looked out the window and no longer saw the boys in the front yard. 
A glance around and I found them at last.  Following mole trails, armed with hand spades ready to attack, should a little nuisance show his naughty little head.

That's my fierce little hunters!

July 23, 2010

Cookies and Milk

I don't drink milk except when it is mixed with coffee. I rarely eat sweets. But I love to bake. And I get great pleasure from sitting my children down for an afternoon snack of home made cookies and a glass of cold milk.  Go figure. 

July 22, 2010

Just Keep Keeping On

Forever In Blue Jeans

I am joining Carin at Forever in Blue Jeans for her weekly challenge to get mom in the picture.  If you've not been in the picture this week, it's not too late!  Here's my four step plan to recovery.  1-Grab the camera 2- grab a kid 3- take a shot 4-post it!  You can't ask for easier than that.  I can't wait to see you in the picture.

When everything in my life is going crazy, I clean house, organize closets and bake.  Something inside of me finds comfort in bringing order and having control over something when everything else is spinning out of control.  Like last week.  Since I was not able to do much of anything, I found my solace in green beans.

The kids had picked a couple of bushels when I was at the doctor's on Monday.  The extreme heat and dry weather resulted in beans that were good only for soup.  They were full of spots, dry and tough.  Normally, I would have tossed the whole mess in the compost.  Except, the kids had spent a long time picking them in very hot and humid weather.  And I needed something to occupy my mind.  So, for several days, I sat and cut spots out of beans to freeze them for soups this winter.   

This next one of Ellie and I was last Thursday.  When she woke up she came running to me for her morning hug.  She became quite upset when I told her I couldn't pick her up.  The kids explained to her that I had a boo-boo on my tummy.  She ran off and came back with a snow white band aid which she promptly fastened over my navel with a firm kiss to make it all better.
This last one, Brianna took before we left for Kaitlin's graduation ceremony on Saturday afternoon.  Brianna was an organizing pro for this event right down to making sure everyone had coordinating outfits in our official school colors.  Blue suits with red ties for the fellows and navy suits and dresses for the ladies. How proud we are of our graduate!

Until next week,

July 20, 2010

Budding Farmers

Samuel and Aedan found some corn seeds while cleaning out the shed. I think they were squirrel corn, but the boys were so excited, who was I to burst their bubble? They asked if they could plant it and I said, "Sure." We've been finding corn sprouting all over the yard, in my flower beds, in the square foot garden and, yes, in the flower boxes on the front of the shed. Wouldn't their farming ancestors be proud?

July 19, 2010

Oh, Summer! How I Love Thee. Let Me Count The Ways...

Little boys filling long days with the adventures of being anything they want to be, like the Red Baron, until at last they collapse from exhaustion.

July 18, 2010

Thanks, Aunt Dawn!

Can you tell that Samuel was thrilled with his birthday gift?

July 17, 2010

Keep On Praying For Me

Brianna made this video to be shown as part of Kaitlin's Commencement Exercises today.  For all those we love that couldn't be here, I hope this brings you a little blessing.




[click on the four arrows to switch to full screen mode]


Hugs,

July 16, 2010

Oh, Summer! How I Love Thee. Let Me Count The Ways...

Breakfast by the pool in the early morning light.

July 14, 2010

July 13, 2010

Another Update

Just want to let you know that my just texted and Mom is out of surgery but still asleep. It will be about 1.5 hours before she wakes up. The doctor thinks that everything is okay but we will know better after she awakes. They are thinking she will be able to come home tonight.

And Pa also texted me this picture he took on his phone of Mom right before she went in for the surgery. How she manages to always look so beautiful I don't know.



Thank you so much to all of you who have been praying!

Much love and hugs to you all!
Nana

Update

Hey, guys!

This is Nana again. Just wanted to let you know that Mom and Pa have just left for the hospital. The surgery begins at 2:30. Thanks so much to all of you who have been praying! This morning we were commenting on how you can really just feel the power of all the prayers all our friends and church family have been doing.

Last night at about 11:30 Mom was bleeding so hard and fast that she was pretty sure we would have to go to the ER that night. But God is so good and she was able to make it until now, and of course, the surgery begins in just a few short hours.

Thanks again for all your prayers! I can not tell you how much they mean to us.

In His Arms,

Yes, It Was So Hard...

... to keep a straight face while I told Elisabeth how naughty it was to turn on the kitchen aid before I told her it was time. 

July 12, 2010

Even in the Shadows...

I will praise you, Lord!

"For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother's womb."  Psalm 139:13

This morning doctors confirmed what I've known for some time but could not bring my heart to believe.  Our eleven week unborn baby has died.  Tomorrow they will perform surgery to prevent further complications.  After seven healthy babies, my husband reminded me of how much we all took for granted that this one, too, will join us at the family table for hours of laughter.  We praised God when each of them were born.  We praised God when we found out this one was on the way.  And today we struggle to praise Him through the valley.

"...the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD."  Job 1:21

Even before the doctor came to see us, the Lord sent comfort to me.  As I left the rest room at the doctor's office, a nurse that has seen us through four babies stopped me and with tears running down her face put her arms around me and told me it would be okay.  And I know it will.  My God is still as powerful as He was the moment He created this life.

I was disappointed when the secretary told me I would be seeing the doctor I don't really care for much.  Yet, God knew it and paved the way.  Yes, He is worthy of the praise!  This doctor who I have always avoided, treated us with such care and kindness, compassion and tenderness.  He comforted, reassured and encouraged.  Thank you Lord for preparing the heart of Dr. C. to minister to us.

In these last weeks of turmoil and heart break, I have not shed a tear.  Something quite surprising since I have cried at everything since the moment I found out I was pregnant. After seeing the sonogram, the first thing that came to mind was the pain the children would feel when they heard this news after suffering so much loss in the last few weeks.  Then the tears flowed freely.  Lord, I praise you for tears that cleanse our aching hearts. 

Lord, I praise you for the the office assistant who had to handle the details.  The perfect stranger.  The mother who has been in my place.  Who so eagerly offered us comfort and encouragement.

When we left the doctor's office the beautiful sunny day, had turned overcast and gray, a suiting analogy for our hearts.  As we often do in moments when we are unsure of what else to do, Allen and I just drove.  We took the back roads all around town way out  to the country where he grew up.  I don't even know if Allen noticed or not.  I couldn't help think of how we always return to our child hood in times of pain.

The entire ride back to town, all I could think of was how to make it real for the children.  How do you bring closure to something so intangible?  The image of the tiny dollhouse baby in the cradle the children placed on our dining room table came back to my mind over and over.

It is funny how your mind works in times of grief.  As all the thoughts are flying through my head, torn between going home to the comfort of my family and prolonging the pain of ripping their hearts apart,  we stopped for a light and I looked down at the sonogram picture on my lap.  On the wall in our living room hang the yearly photos of our children.  A few weeks ago, after the photo shoot with my friend Susan, I updated all of them for this year.  On Tuesday, the girls and I were at Joanne's and bought new frames. Brianna suggested getting one for adding "Gussie's" picture when he was born so that he would match everyone else.  They only had four frames in the style I wanted so we planned to come back next week when they restocked.  Sitting at that light and looking at the picture, all I could think about was that "Gussie" would never be in a frame on the wall with the children.  The big debate of whether he would go on the boys' side or the girls' side would not be settled until we were in Heaven and it no longer mattered.  All of a sudden it was the most important thing in the world that I get a picture frame to match the other children.

Silly, eh?  Again, though, it proved that God was leading the way.  When we finally made our way home, with picture frame in hand, it was that picture that brought it all home to a place the children could understand.    They immediately decided that "Gussie" should hang above the door that separates the boys' pictures from the girls' since we won't know this side of Heaven where to put him.  They found comfort in such a small item yet knowing that in a small way their baby would be part of our family here on earth.

It was decided that to create closure we would plant a tree.  Emma replaced the dollhouse "Gussie" with a much smaller version, closer to the size that he would have been when he died.  She asked to bury the doll beneath the tree and someone else suggested a memorial plague.  How amazing is our God?  My greatest worry at this point was how to help the children through this, and they figured it all out themselves!

We held each other together for a long time as we wept and prayed.

Then we praised God.

"The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in him, and I am helped: therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth; and with my song will I praise him."  Psalm 28:7

The Wisdom of A Two Year Old

My family loves to swim.  Bet you didn't know that☺  But we don't care for the choices in swim wear that cover less than most undergarments.  After lots of experimentation and years of searching, we finally settled on wearing men's board shorts (which are essentially knee length trunks) and UV shirts that are designed for surf gear.   Because the shirts+ aren't lined, the girls wear bikini tops underneath for modesty sake.  (This makes bathroom breaks easier than a one piece.)

The other day, while I was in Walmart, I picked up a new set for Emma.  No you can not buy just the top, so you must pay for both pieces and toss the bottoms.  Elisabeth was with me at the time and for some reason got a huge kick out of it.  She held the hanger all the way home talking non stop about Emma's new bathing suit. 

When we got home she immediately began trying to take it off the hanger so she could put it on.  I offered to help and removed the pieces, cut the tags and handed it back to her.  She held the top in one hand and the bottom in the other and with a horrified look on her face said, "Mama, it's broken!" 

July 11, 2010

Oh, Summer! How I Love Thee. Let Me Count The Ways...

Children hunting butterflies for the cage of death.





July 10, 2010

July 9, 2010

Do You Ever Feel...

A bit like Job?

The last eighteen months have been wrought with one trial after another.

First it was odd health issues that led me from one doctor to another with diagnosis ranging from menopause, to lupus, to lymphoma.  Issues that still go undiagnosed. 

There was serious issues within my father and step mother's marriage that left us wondering if they would make it at all.

Then it was a succession of loved ones we had to bury, including one of my dearest friends and, in the absence of my own birth mother, the woman who was practically a mother figure to me.  This pattern of losing relationships that have been pivotal to our lives continued when our Pastor and his wife, mentor and dear friends to us and our children moved away. 

All along the way it was a series of little, unimportant things going wrong within our home which we have spent 8 years of our lives remodeling.  The washer, dryer, refrigerator, broken pipes that ruined the new drop ceiling in the basement, our entire water system (without which our water is full of bacteria) and more recently flooding in the basement (where we not long ago put brand new wood laminate floors down) resulting from an issue within our air handler and even a minor chimney fire this spring.  While they are nothing in the grand scheme of things, just the same they were things that had to be contended with requiring an investment of both time and finances.

Just the same, the Lord has faithfully seen us through each doctor visit and round of blood work, each home repair, and each burial with his constant love and mercy.  Not that there haven't been times that I had to take a few minutes and throw up my hands, but I have felt his loving arms around me each step of the way.

Two weeks ago, when issues arose within my extended family, leaving the entire family (with the exception of one brother we see only in passing) not speaking to us, I began to do the unthinkable.  I despaired.  Even though, I knew He was still with me, at last the enemy had gotten me where it hurt.  Investing in our extended family and trying to unite what is called among psychologists and sociologists, a dysfunctional family has been our number one goal in our many years of marriage.  To see all that fall apart and have everyone turn on us, was earth shattering.  I felt so heartbroken, I felt a physical ache in my heart.

And that's when, for a brief time, I began to wonder, what's the point?  For several days I found it difficult to pray.  Almost a week passed and each time I opened my Bible all I could do was sit and stare at the pages for an hour at a time until I gave up and put it away.

Don't get me wrong.  My beef wasn't with the Lord.  I knew the He was there.  I knew He was in control.  Yet, the pain was so overwhelming that I could not focus on Him.  Truly, I couldn't focus on anything.  But my relationship with Him is the thing that matters most and the only thing that will see me through this.  My adversary had successfully distracted me from that most basic truth.

My husband and children kept asking me if I was okay.  How was I feeling?  And around here that's a lot of asking.  Every thirty minutes someone would approach me.  The truth was, I didn't know and I couldn't put a name on the emotions that were coursing through me.  Despair?  Disappointment?  Depression?  I still don't know.

For days I moped around like that.  Unable to sleep.  Unable to eat.  Unable to face the Great Physician.  Saturday afternoon I napped for a while and then was awakened by a party at the church up the road.  The rest of the family slept on for another 90 minutes.  I grabbed my Bible and sat in my favorite reading spot and was able to really meet with Him.  That's when I thought, "I feel like Job."  My health, our home and now our family are all at stake.

What's next, Lord?  What's the point?  How will you get the glory in all of this?  That's when the peace came.  The total calm.  It doesn't matter what is happening, because He is in control.  He will get the glory and we will come out refined for it in the end.

Am I happy that my whole family has deserted us, yet again?  Absolutely, not!  Am I happy that after looking forward to my sister's visit for 9 months it has turned out this way?  Absolutely, not!

However, I am happy that I know the God who writes the finale.  The peace came to me as some verses reminded me of a great truth I learned some time ago.  These times of trial come to prepare us for something greater.  Therefore, as we struggle on at this time, even in our heartbreak, the Lord is getting ready to do something great!  Something wonderful!  Something that will bring glory to His kingdom!  And I get to be part of it!

And after all.  Isn't that the whole point?

July 8, 2010

After All These Years...

Forever In Blue Jeans

I am joining Carin at Forever in Blue Jeans for her weekly challenge to get mom in the picture.  If you've not been in the picture this week, it's not too late!  Here's my four step plan to recovery.  1-Grab the camera 2- grab a kid 3- take a shot 4-post it!  You can't ask for easier than that.  I can't wait to see you in the picture.

This week my camera card featured two photos of me and both were with my honey when we went to the battlefield to watch the fireworks and concert on Saturday night.  Which is only appropriate because after all these years I still see fireworks when he looks at me.  

I'm such a lucky girl!

Until next week,

July 7, 2010

Family Retreat

Since Allen had a long weekend for the holiday, we decided to use the time for a family retreat.  We indeed, had a restful time full of fellowship, friends, church brethren, good food and most importantly time to visit with the Lord and meditate on His word.  

I love planning meals and cooking but I don't like to miss out on family time to do it.  Some time ago I started preparing a number of meals prior to the weekend and other times that my hubby will be off for a few days, in order to maximize my time with him.  One of my favorite things is cold salads with lots of vegetables.  The girls and I made up four different ones on Thursday in anticipation for the weekend.

Friday, after a bit of a disaster with the camper, we kicked off the weekend with some pool time, dinner on the grill and a hymn sing around the bonfire.  Even though the mosquitoes were in a fighting spirit we sat out until nearly eleven with a box of graham crackers, coconut marshmallows and a Hershey's special dark bar.

Saturday morning included installing a new fan and other little projects around the house.  By which time it was too hot for anything other than a dip in the pool and a good book.  There were long naps all around in preparation for our evening trip to Antietam Battlefield for the annual concert and fireworks with the Maryland Symphony Orchestra. 

This is by far my favorite place to be to celebrate Independence Day.  It has been a number of years since we have been, so it was extra special to go this year.  Some of the kids don't remember ever being there at all. 

One of my favorite parts is the 21 gun salute with cannons during the 1812 Overture.  
All day long we marveled at the magnificent blue sky.  I think it was the perfect backdrop for this picture Brianna took. 

And what need we say about this shot of Ellie and her Pa?
We ran into two families that are special friends to us.  We ended up sitting with them and all their kids and our kids had a great time eating, blowing bubbles and trampling each other... which seems to be the best game of all for a picnic blanket full of toddlers.
Our friends brought these glow stick thingies... what are they called, anyway... and once they started handing those out that was all the kids cared about!  Our little friend Suzanna made this smiley face with hers and asked me to take a picture of it.

Oh, and by the way, the fireworks were spectacular, too!
But that's not all!  Sunday, after our worship, our church family had a picnic to celebrate Independence Day.  Great food, great friends, and a breeze on a very hot day... what more can one ask for? 

Fun on the playground for those who weren't afraid to leave the shade.
Someone was ingenious enough to bring an ice cream freezer.  Kids turned the crank merrily while us adults gabbed away. 
Back home for a little rest, followed by a dip in the pool, got us ready for some Rita's Gelati's and the fireworks in our city park. 
Okay, just looking at that... I am dying for another... unfortunately, Rita's is closed!!!! Ugh...
Can I tell you how much I adore these three girls?  They make my heart melt faster than that gelati did in the 90 degree temperatures.

Monday morning dawned hot and humid.  I was disappointed we had to make an emergency run to town for pool chemicals.  It turned out to be a good thing.  As we were leaving Walmart we saw the seafood market had a great price on Maryland crabs.  We decided to get a bushel and surprise the kids. 

That might seem small to you all but let me fill you in.  When Allen and I were growing up, steamed crabs were the equivalent of hot dogs and hamburgers at back yard cook outs.  Every gathering you went to had a big pot of crabs steaming away.  The scent of old bay seasoning was the scent of summer eats. 

Unfortunately, pollution and bad fishing practices completely depleted what Maryland was known for.  Thus the cost became outrageous and the crab feed went by the wayside.  Every summer we say we are going to get crabs just so the kids can experience sitting around the pool and picking crabs all afternoon like the good old days.  But each time we look into it the price is more than we can choke down. 

However, I heard recently that there had been a good crop this year and the prices yesterday reflected that.  The big kids, who've sampled crabs from time to time, were elated and the younger ones were filled with curiosity. 
We even had a surprise visit from my older brother who pulled up a chair and joined in the fun.  It was the perfect way to wrap up our weekend together.