Monday, May 25, 2009

Lemonade

Well, this weekend wasn't quite what we had planned, but it worked out just fine in the end. Saturday was our volleyball day at my father-in-law's court. The day when we got to play "real" games (as opposed to family games, which just aren't the same thing) with our volleyball friends. Except that, more and more, people are just busy on Memorial Day weekend. We have friends who camp and travel and have obligations come up, and this year it turned out that, of the 50 people Jeff called, only two could make it to play. One of these being my ex-husband. So, we played five hours of volleyball playing either 3-on-3 or 2-on-2. Not what we had hoped for or planned, but we were able to play.



Today was family day. The day the kids all get to play. It was raining when we woke up, raining when we ate breakfast, raining when the boys left for volleyball practice...you get the idea. By about 10:30 in the morning, here's what our bacyard looked like:



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That lake you see behind our garden isn't usually there. It rained so much and so hard that the storm sewers just couldn't handle it. We just had an amazing amount of rain. Around 12:30, the rain stopped, the sky lightened, and we started to feel hopeful. But not for long. Soon enough, it was pouring again. We opted to go to my father-in-law's anyway. As Jeff said, he just couldn't stand to stay home and then watch the sun come out.



The volleyball court was almost completely under water. Last year it was flooded this same weekend and we bailed off most of the water. This year, there was just no point.



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It was soooo wet. Luckily, my FIL built a nice big, covered deck, so we hung out under there for a while during the lightning and waited for the sky to clear.



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Clear, it did not, but eventually the lightning stopped. Rather than let the day be spoiled by having to crowd up away from the rain, we embraced it. Not like any of us were going to melt! So we splashed...



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Raced...



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And played volleyball anyway.



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And you know what? It wasn't how we had it planned, but we all had a good time. We were with family, and the kids will remember splashing around this Memorial Day better than they'll remember a lot of "better" days.

Go Cards!

Last Thursday my school's Glee Club sang at the beginning of the game. So we could get our Cardinals tickets at a discounted price...which is usually the only time we go. It was a great deal, though. We got tickets with a face value of $44 for $12 each!



The new stadium might look really nice, but we definitely don't go there often enough to have a clue how to get anywhere. Jeff opted NOT to do the guy thing--we actually asked directions about 4 times from ushers, and still somehow ended up halfway around the stadium from our seats and up two levels!! It wasn't all bad...while we were wandering around in No Man's Land, I did run into my cousin Glynda.



Unfortunately, while we were over there, Pujols hit a homerun that knocked out the "I" in the Big Mac Land sign. Not only did we miss the homer, we missed one that was super close to where we were supposed to be. If you look at the blonde-haired girl in the picture, the "I" was straight in front of her. We were in the third row from the front. Oh, well.


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It was a wonderful night to go to the game! The weather was absolutely beautiful, the seats were good, and we were surrounded by people with whom I work (and who I like). In addition, the Cardinals beat the Cubs...and did it in less that 3 1/2 hours. That's my kind of game! I've been known to root for the opposing team if if it'll get us home sooner.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Family!

My childhood church/school is having its annual festival this weekend, so my brothers and I met up there for dinner tonight. Well, "met" is something of a misstatement. We all kind of straggled in, poor Jim (and Kelsea) being the first and Jeff and I (quite surprisingly) being second. It was nice to get to hang out. Of course, there are a few pictures from the evening...



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My niece Kelsea, my brother Jim, my niece Audrey, and my brother Matt. (Jim is currently home on weekend leave and will shortly be departing on his second tour in Iraq. Please keep him in your prayers.) My brother Tom, Audrey's dad, was away from the table when I took the picture. Miss Audrey certainly didn't lack for attention tonight.



There was lots of cousin bonding, too.



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Cousins! (part 1) Kelsea and Nathan



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Cousins! (part 2) Jacob and Bradey



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Cousins! (part 3) Audrey and Jacob

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Anniversary

Jeff and I celebrate our 7th anniversary on Monday. Our big plans include a very romantic volleyball booster club meeting. =) Being as Monday was out, we had our anniversary time this weekend.

Usually, we go away alone together for the weekend, but Jacob's preschool graduation and the weather intervened. With the stormy forecast, we weren't eager to camp Saturday night (though it turns out it would have been fine), and we don't have the money to stay in a hotel or B&B right now.

I was a little frustrated because usually I am the planner. This time, I was kind of hoping Jeff would take the ball, and he didn't. I had to consciously remind myself time and again to get rid of the expectation--of wanting something from him and being upset if he didn't come through as I expected. I didn't want to spend our anniversary being disappointed with him.

We ended up having a low-key, but nice day. We went to some yard sales in the morning with Jacob. Then, we dropped him off with my mom and went to see "Ghosts of Girlfriends Past". Very cute movie, and there in the middle of it was a quote that went right along with my "Cheerleading" post:
If there's one thing family does, it's believe--against all odds--the best of each other.

Wow. That was so much the message of the sermon I was talking about. If we went only by our experience of each other, we might believe some unpleasant things about each other. It is SO easy to stop seeing the good in the people we love and only focus on the annoying or bad things. And so often in a relationship, the annoying things are what we show the people we love the most. It's hard to always be loving, to always think of others first. Sometimes, we have to stand on faith to believe what we know to be true of each other, despite all evidence to the contrary.

If God went by our actions, it would be so easy for Him to believe that we will never learn. But He continues to believe--against all odds--in us. And I'm so thankful for that.

...and back to our day...We ate lunch at one of Jeff's favorite restaurants (which I also like). Then, we headed to Forest Park in St. Louis to ride bikes on the trail there. Jeff isn't that much of a bike rider, and his back has really been hurting him, so it was really selfless of him to go, let alone suggest going for a ride. Beautiful day to be outside, and it was nice to see Forest Park at a slower pace. I could definitely tell that it's been two weeks since I've been on a bike, though. :(

That was basically it. Time together, doing things we enjoyed. Who could ask for more?

Friday, May 15, 2009

Jacob's preschool graduation

Jacob's preschool graduation was tonight. I think it's a little silly, but it was very cute. They even had little caps and gowns. The kids filed onto stage and did the Pledge of Allegiance first.



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The, they sang some songs.



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Before the diplomas were handed out, there was an extensive bathroom break as first one, then another, then another kid needed to go. The rest stayed up on stage, sang a couple songs, and generally acted like giddy preschoolers.



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Finally, it was time for the diplomas...



Jacob with diploma

Clearly, Jacob wasn't proud of himself at all. =) After the diplomas, it was time for lots of pictures and, of course, CAKE! We took a picture of all the boys...they're so cute together. And so wound up!!



Jacob and friends

In case you can't tell, that's Jacob in the middle, surrounded by his friends Oscar, Justin, Ben, and Brennan. Good times.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Cheerleading

Yesterday on the way home from work I was listening to a podcast from North Point Community Church. We used one of Andy Stanley's curriculums in a class I took at church, and I so enjoyed and learned from his messages that I subscribed to the church's podcast. Every single message has something relative to my life. Their messsages are also available on the church's website.

Yesterday's message was called "Great Expectations". It was given by Joel Thomas, who is maybe an associate pastor there? Not sure. Anyway, he began with a funny story about how he stayed home with a sick child but took great steps to make sure his wife didn't expect that he would be able to do that typically. Then he realized that her expectations are what she believes about him, and of course he'd want her to believe that his family was his priority over work and of course he would cancel whatever to be there if his family needed him. People who expect nothing from you or expect the worst from you are generally not your biggest fans.

Then he linked this to Paul's letter to the Galatians. Paul first makes a case that salvation is by faith in Jesus rather than by works, but then he turns right around and gives a whole list of things Christians don't/can't do. Thomas talked about how some peoples' reasons for not being Christian or participating in the church community are along the lines of "I can't live up to all that, so why bother?" There are times I've felt that myself. I'm not that good. I can't do that. I can't be that.

His take? What if those "thou shalts" and "thou shalt nots" are God's expectations of us? His belief in what we are capable of being. God's version of "any kid can grow up to be the President", I guess. Not that He is condemning us when we try and fail, but that He is showing us His goal for us, cheering us on: "You can do it. You can be it."

This was all an interesting concept, and then he really brought it home for me. He said there are two types of people in the world: referees and cheerleaders. The referees always point out what you do wrong; whereas the cheerleaders, no matter what you do, are always cheering you on. Always believing in you and what you could be. (Now that I think of it, it also reminds me of a line from church on Sunday. Pastor Mark was talking about relationships and what we want from each other. He said that women typically are looking for affection, and men are typically looking for affirmation. One quote struck me: "He is becoming what you say about him." So, eventually, "You never..." becomes the truth.) He said that rather than be a referee and always be pointing out peoples' mistakes, he wanted to be the kind of person who was always encouraging them in what they were and were becoming.

Being a first-grade teacher AND parent, I feel like I spend my life being a referee. "Tweet!" --you talked out. "Tweet!" --that's rude. "Tweet!"--You aren't listening. Of course, I am always encouraging my students and children, but it made me think which aspect they remember more. I don't want to be a referee. I want to bring out the very best in the people around me, especially the ones who are entrusted to my care. So, today as I was teaching math, B. was not with me AT ALL. She has some real behavior and defiance issues, and as I called her on it, I could see her anger rise. Be a cheerleader, I told myself. Then, I got down close to her, put my hand on hers, and told her, "I know you can be such a great listener. You're so good at this. Just pull out that good listening and stay with me."

You know, her face cleared, she smiled, she sat up, and she got back with us. It is so easy to react, especially at the end of the school year. It's a whole other thing to act in love. I have a lot to learn from the Bible, but this is one lesson I'm hanging onto.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Goodbye, Kitty

I had to have our cat put to sleep this morning. It was a surprisingly difficult day for me. I typically think I'm pretty thick-skinned, but I basically cried from 6:10, when I lifted up the cat to take him to the car...to the humane society where I took him...back home...at Jacob's day care...up until my students came into my classroom.



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I've had the cat for nearly 14 years. Looking back, I'm amazed by the way my life has changed. When we got him, I was 22 years old, with 2 little boys. Daniel was about 2 1/2, and Nathan was barely 1. I lived in a different city, was married to a different man. A lot has changed since then.

He was a good cat. We named him Dingo because we thought it was kind of funny to give a cat a wild dog's name. He really was more like a dog than a cat. He wasn't standoffish at all. He'd greet you at the door when you got home and was very cuddly. After Jacob was born, he just loved Dingo, and the cat would put up with just about anything from him.

We told Jacob last night that he needed to say goodbye to Dingo because he wouldn't be here anymore. He cuddled him for a while and we took some pictures. After he went to bed, he got up a little while later and said he was sad about Dingo dying, so I went upstairs and we cuddled and talked. Such a hard thing to explain to a 5 year old. This morning, I thought maybe we'd make it out of the house without talking about the cat, but as we walked out the door, he asked, "Did Dingo die?" I told him that yes, he had. He didn't cry, but he took a stuffed animal to school with him, which is unusual for Jacob. Maybe that was his way of having some comfort.

He's been pretty sick for a while, but it is really a hard thing to decide that something's life is over. The lady at the humane society was really sweet, and I had lots of comfort from my friends. I felt silly being as sad as I was, but I sure couldn't help myself. I'm glad that other people understood. It's so good to have friends.



You should read this.

One of the blogs I follow is written by a mother of triplets. I am frequently amazed by the way that she is so reflective about her life and just how perceptive she is. She is able to link everything back to God because she is so in tune to His presence and actions in her life. Anyway, today's blog was no exception. I read along, thinking I'm hearing something about someone's parenting challenges (ones I certainly share), and then suddenly I'm right in the middle of a very applicable lesson for my own life.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Busy, busy

We were going in all different directions today. The older boys had a volleyball tournament out of town...



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...and Jacob had his last soccer game in town. I went to the tournament, and Jeff went to the soccer game. Jacob went with Jeff's mom afterwards, and Jeff met me to watch the rest of the tournament.

The boys had some great moments. We took a game off of a team that has beaten us, so that was good. They played pretty tough in that game. They had some other pretty terrible games. Ended up taking 7th place out of 8 teams. :( BUT, they did win another match, AND Daniel got to set in the final two games. And did quite well. We were thrilled for him, and he was MUCH more pleasant to be around after the tournament.

Between matches, the boys' coach spent quite a bit of time talking to Nathan about how important he is to the team, how he can be a leader, etc. Between volleyball and football, Nathan's been hearing a lot of good things from coaches. I just pray that he keeps humble and keeps working hard and being coachable. I don't want him to get all big-headed and stop working hard or to be disappointed if things don't work out how he thinks they will next year.

We grabbed lunch/supper after the tournament and headed to Jeff's dad's house for more work on the volleyball court. It's maybe 2/3 done, but finishing before Memorial Day is going to be a chore. Jeff has spent a LOT of time over there lately, which is hard because we are so busy at home and have so much that needs to be taken care of here. We can't leave his dad to handle all the work, though, so he's made getting over there a priority.

Daniel had a Thespian Club banquet, so he left Jeff's dad's house early to go there. Yikes...his first "long" (1/2 hour) solo drive. It's so scary to let go of your child like that. I know...they can't be babies forever...but letting him drive off on his own was hard. I'm sure it'll get easier. I just gave him over to God and went back to work. Thankfully, he made it there OK. (I know I sound like an overprotective mother. That is--normally--sooo not me.)

I had to run out when we got home to buy a book and some food for the BBQ at my MIL's house tomorrow. One the way back from the store, I had the strongest feeling of happiness and well-being. I love my family. I love my life. I'm blessed.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Oh, happy day!

Anyone who is my facebook friend, eats lunch with me, has spoken on the phone with me, or reads my family website is most likely sick to death of hearing about boys volleyball. I don't think I've mentioned it much on here, though, so hopefully it's not so painful for fresh ears. :)

Anyway...

THE BOYS WON A MATCH LAST NIGHT!!!!!

Yes, I know it's just high school sports, not the Olympics, but we were soooo happy to see them win last night. They have really struggled this season...though they've been playing since March and practicing 4 hours a day every school day they don't have a game, varsity didn't win a single GAME until last week. Well, we are no longer winless. Last night the boys won the whole match.

I had been telling Jeff that I thought we had a good chance to win. They played their opponent in their third game, and it was the first game that our guys actually looked like they had a chance. They were beaten, but not thrashed as in their two previous matches, and they've improved A LOT since then. So I was hopeful. But I'm always hopeful. :)

Well, the first game pretty much blew that hope away. Kids who are normally steady were making stupid plays. Nathan hit several out. Daniel didn't play at all. :( It was such a sick feeling to watch them fall apart. Ugh.

The second game started much the same. We got a couple of points, then started sinking. At one point, I texted Jeff (who was across the gym talking to some friends of ours) "Ugh. This sucks." I even posted on facebook, "Hey, start rooting for the boys team."

And then...they started playing. Just came alive. One of our kids who typically isn't a real steady server got up to serve and made several in a row to tie us up. The game went back and forth, back and forth. No one could get up by more than one; then the other team would tie it up. It was crazy. The gym completely came alive. Usually, I'm the only one cheering for our team. I can't sit there and be quiet. (Surprise, surprise). Not last night. As the boys took off, everybody was yelling, clapping, stomping, hollering. It was awesome. And finally, they won at 33-31 on a huge kill by Nathan.

Well, that was great, but they still had a third game to play. This one also started out badly. I think the Tigers were down 5-0, but then they just got going. It was a very close game, but they came back and won. It was so great to see the boys with a reason to celebrate. They were jumping and hugging and SO excited. I had a smile on my face for the rest of the evening. Literally.

On the other hand...

The coach did finally put Daniel in during the last game (to serve for Nathan), and he made all his serves and no mistakes on defense. It's been hard for him to be stuck on the bench, and hard for us to watch because (in our eyes, at least) he deserves to be out there. I'm just hoping that he can get through this time with grace and not let it spoil the season for him.

I'm needing my own grace throughout this time. It's tempting to criticize the coach's decision-making, especially when we don't agree with his decisions regarding our precious oldest child. Daniel is the better setter, and he is a good blocker, as well...something the boy who starts instead of him lacks. I've been biting my tongue a lot and reminding myself over and over again that the coach is the coach. I'm not. He has reasons for what he's doing.

And I wonder on top of that what the other reasons are for the benching (like if God has a reason). What will Daniel gain from this experience? Is he being humbled? Seasoned? Is it going to make a difference in his relationship with Nathan? I pray that whatever lesson he is supposed to learn from this will be learned and learned well. And maybe there's one for us in there, too. Submission? Peace? Supporting our overachieving child through his first time such struggle?

It really is difficult to balance the the boys' feelings. To really support and celebrate Nathan's success while remaining sensitive to Daniel's frustration. This is the first time they've competed head to head at something. And they aren't "in competition"...Nathan's a hitter; Daniel's a setter...but everything is a competition for Daniel. Nathan's playing, starting, and Daniel is barely in there. I'm keeping it in perspective, though (well, trying to). If this is the worst trial he'll have to endure, he's a lucky, lucky boy.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Goals

Went into Borders yesterday to pick up a First Communion gift for my goddaughter and ended up dropping $70. Because I have unlimited money. Or not. In addition to the devotional Bible I got for her and the journal that called out to me for a friend's daughter, I happened to pass a table set up with fitness books, one of said books being about cycling. Hooked.

I didn't buy that book. I paged through it without being grabbed. Then, however, I went and looked in the sports/fitness section and there was a row of books on cycling. I grabbed two, one by a female cyclist on training for century ride (100 mile ride) and Bike for Life, by Roy Wallack and Bill Katovsky. In reading the latter, the following quote jumped out at me:
Beyone keeping you focused, goals provide definable memory markers that are often missing in adult life, when one year of fighting traffic and paying bills can seamlessly blend into another.

Exactly!! I couldn't have said it that way, but it speaks to me. My life has memorable things, for sure, but most of them belong to my children. My "memory markers" have someone else's name on them. As a mother, I take great pride in my kids and their accomplishments, but I want to continue to achieve goals in my own right.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Bike log 5/2/09

Tied with my longest ride. This one was a loop on our local bike paths. When I started out today, I wasn't feeling it at all. Kind of wanted to turn around and go work in the garden...but I have my big ride in less than two months, and I want to enjoy it rather than be miserable, and my wonderful husband arranged for Jacob to be occupied so that I'd have the time while he went and worked over at his dad's volleyball court.

I had originally planned on the long loop, but since I was feeling so sluggish when I started I headed in a direction where if I was still feeling that way part way in I could shorten the ride to about 17 miles. By the time I got there, though, I was feeling pretty good. I felt great for the first 25 miles or so. The last several my thighs started really hurting. Not cramping, but sore. This is new for me. The only thing different was that I was wearing my FIL's padded spandex bike shorts (a lovely sight, to be sure) and the legs are tighter than on my usual shorts. Don't know if that would make the difference or not.

After feeling so weak after my last ride (basically sleeping for the next two days), I made sure to bring a snack as well as a Gatorade. I made sure to stop at least ever 10 miles to take a big drink, and I had my snack about halfway in. That must have helped, because energy was never an issue.

Ride stats:

Weather was mid-high 60's and mostly cloudy. Not much wind, which was a lovely change from my last few rides!

Distance: 34.355 mi
Max. speed: 20.8 mph
Avg. speed: 12.5 mph
Time: 2:44:43
Calories: 1,271.9

Friday, May 1, 2009

:(

I'm feeling really down tonight. Struggling in private with some personal issues. Things that I know I need to get right about but am holding tightly to. So if you read this, I'd greatly appreciate your prayers for wisdom and strength and the ability to lay down what I want in exchange for what God has planned for me.