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Thursday, January 29, 2009

Just journaling

We had snow days the past two days. Jeff, Jacob, Daniel, and Nathan went out shovelling driveways for fun and profit on Tues. Jacob lasted two houses (with his jr.-sized shovel...so cute) and then came home for hot chocolate, but he earned $3...his first "earnings". We went to see Bedtime Stories (largely dumb, but cute and entertaining) later in the day.

Tuesday morning's 1.5" was dwarfed by Tuesday night/Wednesday morning's 6-ish inches. Our first "real" snow in a few years!! Of course, Jeff (who was called off work for Tuesday's sprinkling of snow) had to work. The boys and I went back out and reshovelled for the people who'd paid them before and then one more driveway. Then, I came back and did ours. It can fit about 8 cars in it, which is wonderful for parties but a lot of work when it's covered in snow. I managed most of it, and Jeff finished it when he got home.

We went sledding in the afternoon for a couple of hours. There's a great hill not too far from our house. It was packed, but we still got lots of sledding in. All in all, it was a good day.

Today was (finally) my evaluation at work. My students were as wonderful as they get. =) I don't have the results, but I should have a decent evaluation. I was proud of them. And if having the principal there keeps them that well behaved, he can sit in every day!!

Somehow I lost my car keys at Jacob's daycare. Jeff had to bring me the other set. Hopefully they turn up tomorrow.

Monday, January 26, 2009


So, tomorrow is my evaluation at work. Tenured teachers (whose ranks I joined almost 2 years ago) in my district are evaluated by an administrator every other year. Nontenured teachers are evaluated every year.

My first evaluation ever was by the then-superintendent of the district, and I felt like she really looked at what I was doing during the observation. Every subsequent evaluation has been done by our former principal. They were usually short and sweet. My evaluations were always great...perfect, in fact. It's nice to see on a piece of paper, but I never felt like those drive-by evaluations really touched what I was doing in my classroom.

The point of the evaluation for the district is to make sure that its teachers are doing what they are supposed to and pinpoint areas for improvement. Repeated poor evaluations could lead to loss of a teaching position. I certainly don't want a poor score, but I always wished my score truly reflected me. I am not perfect. There are areas in which I could certainly use improvement, and having a...not impartial, because the school wants me to succeed and perform well...an honest assessment of my strengths and weaknesses can help me to become a better teacher.

If I listen. If I submit to that judgement and look for ways to improve my areas of weakness. If I implement those ways.

This year my evaluation will be performed by our new principal. He's very invested in doing his job right. I think he's going to pay attention and really examine what we're doing rather than check my name off his list and move on to the next classroom. I'm a little excited and a little nervous. You always sit up a little straighter when someone is watching.

Of course, Someone is always watching. I am evaluated by Him every day. And I can grow closer to Him if I submit to His judgement and His ways. I am so thankful that I serve a God who gave me "tenure" when I accepted His Son as my Savior, and who is far more invested in my success than my school could ever be!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

On becoming smaller

I spent much of yesterday either travelling for or at the funeral of a friend's husband. He was only 58, and though he had recently had some health problems, his death was very unexpected. They had been married for 35 years and have two adult children. Both of their children were married in the past year, and so are blessed to have the memory of their father at their weddings.

At the beginning of the funeral service, the pastor read a letter written by C. about her husband. It talked about his relationship with God, with his family, with his friends, with her, and with their children. Of all of these relationships, their marriage received two sentences, and immediately led into how important his children were to him.

I was so touched that C., even in the midst of the sudden loss of her love of the past 40 years, made so little of herself and was so focused on taking care of all of the people who had surrounded her husband. My take is that she is so safe in the reality of how much she was loved and how much she was at the center of his life that she didn't have to make any big deal or show of herself. That certainty enabled her to reach out and be a light and source of strength to everyone around her in the time of her greatest loss.

As I thought about that letter, I thought about things I have read or heard about humility, about letting God shine and act through you rather than making yourself the point of things. Sometimes I wonder just what that looks like. I think that yesterday God gave me an illustration of exactly what he's talking about.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


Last night was quite the adventure. Nathan had a 6:00 away game, so I was doing pretty well getting right out of school. Made it home at around 4:40, which is good for me...but Nathan texted me about 10 minutes before I got home to tell me that his game was actually at 5:15. Yikes!! That gave me about 5 minutes to eat and run. Luckily, Jeff had picked up pizza and had it waiting for me. What a guy! :)

We hightailed it a couple of towns over, and there were quite a few cars in the high school parking lot. Walked into the gym....and nothing. Dead empty. Huh???

Called Daniel, who had just made it home from working on the tech crew for the latest musical at our high school, and he checked the schedule. We were in the wrong city!!! I could have sworn Nathan told me the other city. Yikes. By then we were questioning whether it made sense to go to the game, but we were already out. We got to the game in the 3rd quarter, and I did get to peek through the glass and see Nathan on the court, but by the time we actually had paid and were in the gym he was out. Where he remained for the rest of the game because the second string was in. Ah, life. But we were there. :) And back we'll go tonight for the next game of the tournament...in the right city!

Journal note: Jacob has his first loose tooth.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

What my fast has taught me

My church has been fasting this month. We chose what it was we wanted to fast and for how long, but the "official" fast period was from Jan. 5-26. As a lifelong Catholic, I've endured 35 years of Lent and struggled with meatless Fridays as well as the two days of fast and abstinence from meat. For this fast, I chose to fast soda (my biggest addiction) and lunch (I love food. Love it.) I learned several things with this period of fasting:
  • Somehow it's much easier to follow through with the fasting when it's my commitment, rather than an obligation.
  • I've been much less legalistic (as in, "OK, exactly how much food can I eat for breakfast/lunch that doesn't comprise a full meal together").
  • I need to get my attitude about food under control. This has really taught me that I don't need a snack or another soda just because I've got a free moment. I will hopefully come out of this with a healthier attitude towards food and, when I resume lunches, make more of an effort to make good choices with what I eat.
  • I can do it when I set my mind to it! I've been SO hungry quite a few times, but I've stuck with it (except one day where I blew it).
  • Limiting what I eat is much easier when I make God a part of it. How many other things in my life need me to write God over them? How much better could my life be? (I think this is the number one lesson right here.)
All of that said, I think I have really missed out on the most important part of the fast. Along with the "giving up" part, we were also supposed to replace that thing with more prayer and time with God. It is still a struggle for me to spend time with God, whether it's in the Word or in prayer or just in quiet time with Him.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

That didn't take long!

Took Jacob to the climbing wall at our local Y tonight. He's been wanting to climb it, and now that he's 5 (yeah, yeah...he turned 5 in November, but it just recently occurred to me that now he's old enough to climb the wall) he can. Got on the harness, waiting in line, and he had a really nice guy belay him. Got about 2 feet off the ground and was in tears.

Jacob climbing the wall

Here's about where he stopped. The funny thing is that he's climbed at least twice as far on a playground rock wall when he wasn't roped in and waaayyy further on REAL rocks when we were hiking. (I have the feeling there's a lesson here about God, but it's not coming to me. If it does, I'll be sure to post it.)

In other news, I'm playing single mother this weekend. Jeff will be at the Cardinals Winter Warmup all weekend. The older boys are with their dad, so it's just me and Jacob. Naturally I'm feeling lousy, but it's not too bad with ibuprofen. We had quite the busy day today...

8:30 Took Nathan to school so he could take the team bus to the game.

9:15 Leave for Nathan's game (about 1/2 hour away). Actually arrive on time...something akin to a miracle for me.

10:00 Basketball game

11:30 Lunch with sister-in-law, niece, and nephews. We went to McDonald's so Jacob and his cousin Alex could play in the playland. With the terribly cold weather (temps in the single digits and wind chills below zero), the kids have been stir crazy.

1:00 Niece's basketball game. OK, that makes one this year, so I have chalked up all the "good aunt" points I'm going to get.

2:30 Nap. Ahhhh!

7:30-7:35 Rock wall. =)

We're going to sit down with Jeff and watch Polar Express in a bit. Talk about your busy days! Haha haha. Just my speed.

Tomorrow we have church, then I'm going to go return some Christmas gifts that didn't fit right. I'm planning to save the money towards my bike trip.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Some excitement

I'm feeling excited these days. I've got plans to do something different, something challenging, for the first time in a long time.

We've gotten boring, you know? All the work, kids, mom,cab, bills, debt stuff has crowded out our sense of adventure. Several years ago, Jeff and I took a whirlwind trip to the Smoky Mountains. We only had 4 days in March, didn't really know where we were going, and had no reservations. I mapped out a circuitous route that took us to several attractions, and off we went. We camped and froze and it was too cold to shower at night so we smelled bad, too...but boy was it a good trip! We don't do much of that kind of thing anymore.

Well, no more. I got a bike for my birthday last April, the first "good" bike I've ever had. Of course, it rained for a month and a half after I got the bike, but once I finally got it out I used the heck out of it. My first actual "bike ride" (rather than just around the neighborhood) was 20 miles. I had never ridden than far, and I had no intention of doing it that day, but I got lost on a loop trail and ended up having to backtrack. I just about crawled into the house when I finally got back!

After that, though, I decided that if I could accidentally ride 20 miles, I could do it on purpose, too. Most of my rides were more in the 10-15 mile range, but I rode a lot for someone who had maybe ridden for 10 miles in the past 10 YEARS. My aunt is an avid bicyclist. She rides in RAGBRAI and on the Katy Trail ride as well as lots of other rides. She's been on me about coming to do a 50-mile leg of the ~225 mile ride. Well, I'm going to do the whole ride.

I'm really excited about the idea in a way that I haven't been excited about anything lately. I know it'll be hard, but I'm looking forward to a challenge and a new experience. I'm really looking forward to the weather warming up so I can get out and start training. Jeff isn't crazy about the idea because it'll take me away from home for a week, and it's going to be a hassle to figure out what to do with Jacob for that week (since I'm off all summer long, he won't go to daycare, and Jeff works all day)...but I'm trusting that we'll be able to figure everything out.

I tried to get Jeff to go with me, but he isn't interested in spending a week of his precious vacation (and I'm not being sarcastic...he only has 2 weeks, so it's very precious to him/us) being "miserable". Plus, it would be double the cost. Part of me would love to be able to have the experience together, and part of me is looking forward to doing it on my own and having a story to tell. We'll see what happens with that.

So, June 22-26...I'll be riding like crazy and taking lots of pictures to bring back and share. I'm excited already!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Notes on reading

I'm currently reading To Live is Christ, Beth Moore's book about the life of Paul. I've heard wonderful things about her Bible studies, so I had to get this book when I saw it at Barnes & Noble. I read a couple of quotes today that I want to remember. They really hit home. This passage follows her discussion about how the Pharisees wanted to shut Jesus up and make sure things stayed "finished" after His crucifixion.

A few very important things were finished, all right. But the Lord Jesus was not one of them...The very thing He finished we can't seem to leave alone; and the very thing He hasn't finished, we try to hald. The work of Calvary is finished. No more payment for sin is necessary. He did it all by Himself on the cross. We can't earn it. We can't add to it. It is finished. Yet we try to add our good works to His salvation.

However, the work He is doing on behalf of everyone who has accepted Christ as Savior is not finished. Salvation is finished. Sanctification is not. Completion is not. Philippians 1:6 promises that "He who tbegan a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." Yet we wish He'd stop picking on us and let us be the boss...Give this thought some consideration: sometimes more effort is required to keep rolling the stone back over the tomb than simply to cooperate with the work He seeks to finish in us.

...Do we want the cross without the resurrection? Are we trying to stuff the living, working Christ back intot he tomb so He'll just save us and then leave us alone?

Monday, January 12, 2009

Things that have me thinking...

Kind of a mishmash here, because I don't really have the time to sit down and make this a coherent whole, though I think everything goes together. So here it is...

Some things this weekend have me thinking. No resolutions as of yet, but things are cooking around in my mind. In no certain order:

1) Our pastor is currently doing a series called "30 Days to Live". What changes would you make in your life if you knew that you only had a short, finite amount of time left? I've always thought, Oh, it would be so easy to be good/eat right/live right if it was for a short time. The reality, of course, all of us have a finite amount of time left, and when viewed from the end it isn't that much time at all...and I have some changes that should be made.

2) I'm reading the book This Book Will Save Your Life. I'm not that far yet, but the main character seems to be a fairly wealthy guy who's managed to basically wall himself off from the world to the point that he doesn't have to leave his house, but through a series of circumstances is forced to rejoin the world.

3) Last night, as part of our attempts to actually do something together as a couple, Jeff and I went to see Yes Man, Jim Carrey's latest movie. Somewhat similar (at least superficially) to the book I mentioned. His character has, post-divorce, withdrawn from any kind of social life and turns down basically any offers...always playing it safe and insulating himself. He goes to a conference where he is convinced to say "Yes" to any offer, and when he puts this into effect good things start to happen to him.

I'm a good one for saying "no" to things, or even when I say "yes" then I second-guess and worry. Like the guy in #2, I find it very easy to stay in the house. I'm sure that Jeff sometimes wondered to the person he married, because I used to be much more open to doing things, even things that were out of my comfort zone; now, it seems like "no" is my default answer. It's easy. It takes no effort to say no. Between the book and the movie, though, it really got me thinking about how God makes things happen in our lives when we are open to them, and I think I'm getting a nudge in that direction. Maybe even a shove. =)

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Book review: World Withou End

World Without End World Without End by Ken Follett

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
World Without End is Follett's sequel to Pillars of the Earth, but it stands on its own for those who haven't read the first book. A sweeping saga, in over 900 pages it covers several decades in the life of four main characters who live in and around a medieval cathedral town in England.

If I didn't have any family or work responsibilities, I could have read this book in one (long) sitting. It was so involving that I hated to put it down. The characters and setting were well drawn, and the plot moved along well. In addition, I felt like I learned something about life, society, and even construction in the Middle Ages.

I would recommend this to anyone who likes to read. It's a fantastic book!

View all my reviews.

Book review: The Year of Magical Thinking

The Year of Magical Thinking The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

My review

rating: 2 of 5 stars
This book follows Joan Didion's process of dealing with and making some sense of a very difficult period in her life. First, her only daughter falls gravely ill and is hospitalized. Just a few days later, her husband of 40 years collapses and dies at the dinner table.

I thought the book was stylistically interesting and well crafted. She speaks at one point of "the vortex"...the way that something seemingly random can evoke memories of her husband and suck her in unexpectedly. Like a vortex, the book returns to some refrains and events time and time again. "Life changes. Life changes fast. You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends."

While I think it's a very apt analysis of her grief and the skewed ("magical") thinking that follows such a loss, I didn't find this book very interesting. The main events of the story happen right at the beginning. The rest of the book is just dealing with what happened in the beginning.

I don't know that this book would be particularly helpful to someone who is in the midst of the immediate grief following a loss, but I'm sure that those who have passed through it will find themselves in familiar territory.

I listened to the audiobook version of the book. The reader was not the author, and with the personal and tragic nature of the events of the book I can't see how the author could have gotten through it, anyway. The reader did a good job, but I did find the occasional musical interludes annoying...and they didn't seem to add much of anything to the listening experience.

View all my reviews.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Short but sweet

All day long I grumbled about having to work concessions at the varsity basketball game tonight. Even as I complained, I'd say, "I shouldn't be complaining because football concessions were a lot of fun, and this probably will be too."

And you know what? It was! My feet are killing me, but I had a great time tonight. There were only about 5 of us working, but a sophomore parent and his wife were there. He seems like a nice guy, and I loved his wife. She and I were doing the popcorn machine, and we laughed and talked and joked around like high school girls. It ended up really being a nice evening.

Now I'm going to sit down and play some cards with my husband and middle son while my youngest is asleep and my oldest is watching a movie in the basement with three friends and his girlfriend. And, for the moment, for the most part, I feel like things are right with the world.

(Which beats yesterday, when I burst into tears at QT at this conversation with my "regular" cashier..."And how are you today?" "OK" "Just OK?" ...cue tears. Geez. haha)

Thursday, January 8, 2009


Well, right now I'm in the middle of trusting that God will work all things for His good and learning all over again that the answers to prayers don't always come in the way one might imagine or hope. And, interestingly, in the midst of a pretty uncomfortable and unpleasant situation and feelings, I'm finding it easier to rest in God, let Him work, and trust in the results.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Book review: The Shack

The Shack The Shack by William P. Young

My review

rating: 2 of 5 stars
I may post a more thorough review later, or I may not. I'm still processing what I read, and I probably would need to reread the book...and I don't know that I will.

Like several of the reviews I briefly scanned, I didn't think the book was at all well-written. The story was very "tell" rather than "show", and what could have been a gripping plotline...wasn't. I'm a fast reader, and it took reading over two days to finish this book. I had to make myself sit down and read it.

The book hopes to give some answers about where God is in the midst of tragedy/how could a good God let bad things happen as well as the nature of the Holy Trinity and God's presence with/in us. There were times when, to paraphrase the author, I felt like I was this close to "getting it" before "it" slipped away from me. That said, I thought The Shack was thought-provoking at times and worth reading. It doesn't give you the answers, but it might flesh out some of your questions.

View all my reviews.

New Year's Day hike

It has become a tradition in our family to go for a hike on New Year's Day. Jeff and I first went when Jacob was a baby, and I think we've gone about every year since then. Somehow, even in January, the weather always cooperates. It may not be warm, but it's warm enough to go.

Well, we didn't move too quickly on Thursday morning, but eventually we got going. My sister-in-law Jan and some of her kids decided to go along with us, as did my mother-in-law, Carol, her boyfriend, and a family friend. We got to the park and started hiking around 2:30-ish.


This picture belies the fact that Jacob had a nap of about 22 minutes and was crabby as heck when we got out of the car. "Carry me!!!" is not what you want to hear at the beginning of a hike!


Of course, the kids' favorite part is climbing on the rocks. It slows things down, but it's a nice rest stop for those who need a break.


Carol hadn't intended to go hiking when she left the house, and her slip-on shoes made it even more of a challenge!


Daniel with Jan's son Alex.


Jeff and I. I'm not pregnant; I just look that way in my winter coat. :(


Daniel up the tree playing monkey while Nathan tries to shake him out of the tree. Isn't sibling love grand? Jacob and Alex watch and learn.


These cousins are buddies. I'm so thankful that Jacob and Alex are so close in age (3 months apart), especially since they're both the youngest in their families by quite a bit and highly unlikely to have any younger siblings.


Josh and Megan.


Of course the little boys had to go check out the frozen "waterfall". And so did some of the bigger folks.


He may be a "grown-up", but Mike's the biggest kid of all!


Jeff and Jacob


Alex and Mike. Alex has no fear.


Josh, Megan, and Alex. I think we have a picture of someone in this tree trunk from about every hike we've taken here.


Nathan, Megan, and Jan


Is there anything better than shuffling through leaves?

And now watch the sun set on our hike...



It didn't seem this dark at the time...


All done with the hike...and a beautiful sky...


Within about 10 minutes of hitting the parking lot, it was pitch black. Would have made that hike down the hill a little more interesting for sure!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Feeling sad

I've spent a lot of time on facebook lately. I've had a chance to reconnect with some friends from my college days, and it's been neat to look back at some pictures and see those faces again. What I've been most struck by, though, is how little connection I have to many people from that time.

Though I went to the same college for 3 years, I really only was a typical student for one. I got pregnant my freshman year, got married my sophomore year, and lived off-campus (though very close) with my husband and son for the next year or so. I still went to school, but I worked about 20 hours a week as well and had a baby to take care of, so it wasn't like I was any part of campus life. I basically have one friend from that period of my life.

As I've been reflecting on my past, it seems like this is a continuing theme in my life...my lack of roots or continuing connection. I have a few close friends from high school, but I don't see them often. I keep in sporadic touch with one friend from the 3 years I lived in Rockford. I have friends at work, but they aren't people I often do things socially with. We have friends from volleyball, but if we aren't playing we don't do anything with them. My life is centered around our family, both our little family and our siblings. That's not a bad thing, but I really feel a need for something more.

Right now I feel very adrift. It's a lousy thing to say, but my family isn't enough for me. And while I've read in several places that I can't expect other people to fill a void for me--that I should be turning to God to complete me--I don't even know how to do that. It turns out that I'm not good at building relationships with much of anyone.

So, last night as I was feeling sorry for myself, I headed to bed with my Bible and the book I was currently reading (The Shack, which isn't going to get a review from me yet because I'm still processing it). I haven't kept up well with my Bible reading during this break, and I wanted to at least read a few verses. I opened to the spot where I had left off, and here's what I read:
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles...(2 Corinthians 1:4-5)

I had to just laugh. God's little pat on the back..."I'm here. I care."

Friday, January 2, 2009

Christmas in Kansas City

Every year when I was growing up, we celebrated Christmas with my Dad's side of the family on Christmas Eve. "Christmas Eve" gradually became "some time around Christmas", and it's been harder and harder to get together as we have gotten married, had kids, moved in different directions. We even missed one year, eventually getting a few of us together in late January.

This year, my cousin in Kansas City hosted the family gathering. They're the only ones who live there, but they live in a big, beautiful old house with lots of bedrooms and extra space, so almost everyone just spent the night with them. We had the best time!

Usually, the gatherings last about 1 1/2 hours (at best) before everyone has to go their separate ways. Since we were all staying at the same house, though, we were able to just relax and visit. We talked and laughed and talked. I had the opportunity to beat my cousin (who fancies himself quite the card shark!) in gin, too, which was fun. Since everyone had a glass (or three) of wine or beer, the conversations ranged wildly. We held the first "drunk book club"...since we ended up talking about books among other things.

My kids had a wonderful time, too. Jacob loved running up the back staircase and down the front staircase. I think he ran laps for an hour or so! They all played hide and seek (even the teenagers), ate cookies, played video games, ate cookies, watched movies, ate cookies, went to the show together, and snuck down for more cookies. I think Nathan slept for a total of 15 minutes that night because he was up talking.

One funny thing about the trip. It was about 65 degrees here at home when we left. Drove 4 1/2 hours west, and it was in the low 30's when we got there! It even snowed that night, so Jacob sort of got the white Christmas he'd been praying for. Of course, all we had were light sweatshirts, so he only got it through the window!

Naturally, I forgot my camera, but hopefully some of my cousins will send me pictures to add to the post. This overnight trip was probably the best part of my whole Christmas. It was definitely the longest time I've spent with that part of my family since my early teens, and an experience I hope that we can repeat.