Friday, June 5, 2015

Why Field Day Matters

I have the most wonderful memories of my elementary school Field Days growing up.  Those days were the ones I looked forward to all year.  Spending the school day outside in the warm sun sprinting through the grass was sheer delight for me.  I loved the competition and the ribbons we won, and those memories propelled me to later join track and set school relay team records which were broken by my sister's team 8 years later.  

Thirty some years later, Field Day isn't so much about winning ribbons or competition or even running anymore.  Those things have been replaced by games with flags and hula hoops and silly bouncy horses.  Only the school day outside in the warm sun remains, but as I watched Brayden, my kindergartener, in his first Field Day, I wasn't thinking about setting my son up for success as a high school track star or athlete.  

What I was thinking about was that we were both there!  And, believe me that is no small miracle considering what the last year has been like.  Many know that Brayden has struggled with his health from early in his life and has missed at least 40 days of school this year (I lost count after about the 25th day).  I have kept my own health issues less visible, but I have battled joint pain (newly diagnosed as early Rheumatoid Arthritis) the last few years which takes me out for days at a time. This pain in combination with my ongoing endometriosis and seasonal depression keeps me from being able to participate in life as much as I wish I could.  

And, as I shared with my neighbor and friend last night who is at her last day of work today, it is so awesome not be working and to be able to be a helper at Field Day and other school events.  My very part-time job as a nurse came to a disappointing end a couple months ago, and as much as I have had trouble thinking positively about the way it ended, I felt nothing but gratitude yesterday for the extra time I have to be a part of my children's lives now that I'm not working.  

And, while it may be a bit presumptuous, as I was filling the kindergarten class water bottles and taking about a hundred pictures yesterday, I may just have been the happiest mom there.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Kindergarten Eve

"Entrust your loved ones to me; release them into My protective care.  They are much safer with Me than in your clinging hands." -Sarah Young Jesus Calling

Several weeks ago, the reality began to set in that kindergarten was quickly approaching for Brayden.  My tears had already begun to flow, and it was clear that my husband was completely oblivious to the fact that this process might be very difficult for me.  Starting school is such a huge milestone for moms, and kids, of course, and I know I am not the only one who struggles with letting go.  

As I attempted to explain my feelings to my husband, I thought they arose from a sense of needing to protect Brayden, and that somehow by being with him all day I was doing that.  Then I realized it wasn't that I was ever able to really protect him from everything but that it was the "being there" that I will miss most.  Being there to be excited with him when he learns something new or to laugh with him when he says something hilarious.  Being there to hug him and comfort him at the first moment he feels sick or sad and even being the one to discipline when he does something wrong.  Someone else will be there instead of me, and from now on I will miss a portion of his life each day.

I asked The Lord to give me this boy, and he has granted my request.  Now I am giving him to The Lord, and he will belong to The Lord his whole life. -1 Samuel 1:27-28

Most kids have already had a year or 2 of school at this point, and Brayden spent the first day of preschool last year in the ER with dehydration from Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome, which he still continues to struggle with.  So, it was very obvious to me that we needed to keep him home an extra year, and I treasure every moment we had together.  We enjoyed spontaneous day trips when he felt good, extra cuddle time when he was sick, and lots of crazy playtime in the house during the long winter.  And, of course, the countless hours playing with his little brother, Blakey, were so special.  This past year has been a gift.

Truly Brayden's whole life has been a gift even before he was born, and throughout his short life, he has faced many struggles.  We had longed for a baby for many years before we found a wonderful fertility doctor in Florida who diagnosed and treated me for endometriosis which brought Brayden into our lives a year later.  Several years after that, and a cross country move, Brayden battled a severe case of ITP, and we were so grateful that God spared his life after his platelet count bottomed out.  And, as I said, the current struggle with vomiting is less severe, but it often keeps him from being able to be a part of activities that other kids are involved in.

All of these life events seemed to flash before my eyes as Ben and I sat through parent orientation the other night as the principal explained the complex pick-up and drop-off instructions.  Tomorrow morning I will be the one shedding many tears behind my aviators, but I know I will be entrusting my son to the One who can care for him far better than I ever could.  

Love you, Brayden, to the moon and back!

Monday, October 14, 2013

In Season

Love loveth best of all the year
October's bright blue weather.
-Helen Hunt Jackson

Fall has long been my favorite season.  Perhaps even more so after living in the absence of autumn for 6 years when we lived in coastal Northern California and South Florida.  I truly love all of it-the pumpkin patches, apple orchards, crisp and clear weather, and the brilliant shades of falling leaves.  Fall is what the Midwest does best, in my opinion, and I soak up every last bit of it, because even though I adore Fall, this season brings with it a feeling of dread as winter is looming.  

Winter was never my favorite, but after having lived with tropical ocean breezes, palm trees, and 70 degree temperatures all winter, it was very difficult to go back to winters with 4:30 pm sunsets, below zero temperatures, overcast days, and months on end indoors.  It didn't take long that first winter back in the Chicago area to figure out that I had Seasonal Affective Disorder.  Friends and family told me I would get used to it again, but nearly 4 years later, I can say that winter will continue to be a struggle for me as long as I remain in this climate.  

Yet we resist the coming of autumn, when all the leaves fall from the trees of our lives.

Our family has been in a bit of a dark, cold season over the past year.  We have been through some difficult times with illness and our subsequent decision to step away from ministry.  Right now we have few solutions, explanations, or answers, yet we remain in this season.  A place where I admittedly don't want to be.  The calling God has placed on my heart has not changed, yet this is where God has me right now.  

A friend recently told me that she is praying for a "light at the end of the tunnel" for us.  Absolutely that is what I am praying, too, but at the same time I have begun to seek the light inside the tunnel, because I have no idea if or when this season will end, and I need to God's light in every dark place of this season.  So, I have begun to work on accepting the season I am in.  Sometimes I am able to embrace it, and other times I am just surviving, but I realized that He alone can get me through. 

When on the ground red apples lie
In piles like jewels shining
-Helen Hunt Jackson

Back to what I LOVE about Fall.  Apple picking!  These pictures are from a recent trip to Royal Oaks Farm, which is a local favorite apple orchard/pumpkin patch.  It is quite busy on weekends, but we happened to go on a beautiful Monday afternoon, and there were only a couple other families there. There are few things on this earth that I love as much as apple picking.  In fact, I love it so much that I would equate it with an afternoon on the beach!  I'm not even sure why, exactly, except that there is something so pure about walking through the fields and seeing something growing and sharing that experience with my boys. 

I'm really not sure how it started, but my little Blakey (2) loves cats!  So, when a cat showed up in the apple orchard, he was completely delighted!  In fact, this little cat sort of stole the show.  

The fact that we were even all healthy enough to go was a miracle, and to have both boys really excited about the actual apple picking was so fun!  Brayden listened very carefully and seriously as the person who issued us our bag explained to "twist, twist, pull" when picking apples-a phrase he repeated the entire time we were there.  Blake was more than happy to be hoisted into the air to choose his own apple.  


I will leave you with this picture and a hope that I will be able to blog more often in the future.  Thanks for stopping by!

(All word art is by Lili Niclass except for the first picture which uses word art by Cathy Zielske.  All of my very amateur photos were taken with the iPhone 5.)

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

A Month of Life Events

I am not good at summarizing, especially when it comes to a month like this past one, which hit some very high notes, but some very low ones, as well.  I thought I would try something that I've seen some of my favorite bloggers do perhaps with a more serious twist, as I attempt to describe what the last few weeks have been like.  Life sometimes happens all at once like it did for me this month.  Joy and happiness come at the same time as sadness and difficulty, and the everyday intermingles with all of it.  So, without further unnecessary explanation and introduction...

These last 3 weeks, I've been:

Mourning the loss of my grandmother, but rejoicing that she is with Jesus and no longer feels pain.

Hoping and praying that the best man would be out of the hospital and well enough to be at the wedding-which he was!
Beautifying myself for the wedding with pedicures, manicures, hair appointments, and various waxings.

Celebrating my sister's beautiful wedding!

Acting as her personal travel guide via text as she went on her honeymoon in West Palm.

Freaking out because I got 3 tickets in the last month. Not even for speeding!

Boating with my mom and boys on my brother's boat and watching my four-year-old "drive" the boat.

Writing and obsessing over an article that I need to finish in 2 days!

Welcoming my new nephew into the world!  Praying that he will recover quickly from pneumonia and be able to come home soon!

Drinking Starbucks iced lattes just about every day as a means of survival!  Or maybe just because I am addicted to the taste.

Rescuing an unresponsive woman on the street and realizing she didn't need CPR. She was just drunk.

Watching my favorite summer shows-Burn Notice and Royal Pains and finding a new favorite-Cedar Cove.

Thanking God for getting me through a very stressful month!

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Holiday at Home

I have a tendency toward nostalgia, and I am never more nostalgic than I am on holidays.  I guess I think back to all of the places I have spent each particular holiday, who I've spent it with, and what we did.  Inevitably I end up in tears thinking about all the friends I miss and the places I've moved away from, and it can be very overwhelming.  Nostalgia is often a curse.

However, today I realized the 4th is NOT one of those nostalgic holidays for me!  My husband and I could hardly come up with a 4th of July that we were not right here in my hometown doing just about exactly what we did today.  All those years we lived in other places, we came home almost every July!  Nothing feels more like a true 4th than being here.  And, although it doesn't always feel like home (since we moved back here), today it did.  It was a nice feeling!

This year we watched the fireworks from the best spot in town-our church parking lot.  Since the boys are 4 and 2, they were at the perfect ages to really enjoy the 4th this year.  Brayden remembered enough about last year to be super excited this year.  Blake didn't know what to expect, but about halfway through started yelling "Whoa!" after each firework.  Cutest thing ever!

Today we spent the day at home and had a classic Midwestern cookout including (but not limited to) corn on the cob, watermelon, and brats.  We spent the first half of the afternoon on our deck, but we spent the bulk of the afternoon sitting in random chairs that we dragged out to the driveway watching a serious bags tournament in the front yard.  It was a super fun, spontaneous, and relaxing day!  And, I am so thankful for it.

Happy 4th of July!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Life This Week

We are in full on wedding mode around here with my little sister's wedding coming up in a month.  I am honored to be her "Matron of Honor" (let's just call me the MOH since "matron" sounds way too old and out of shape). So, the official wedding events begin this weekend, and it is all about the wedding until the end of July. Lots of fun times ahead!

Official "wedding business" (self-imposed scrapbooking project for the my sister's shower) took me to Archiver's in Gurnee this Sunday.  I am always happy to take a trip to my favorite store and back to the first town I ever lived in after I got married.  So much to do there and so many fun memories!  Brayden was more than happy to be my trip buddy for the afternoon since he knows any trip to Gurnee includes a trip to "the fish store" (Bass Pro Shops), which is any kid's dream with the huge fish tanks, waterfalls, bridges, tents, and the list goes on.

Since I was heading to Archiver's already, I decided to quick throw together a few things to print at their new Memory Lab, completely unrelated to the wedding project. For this layout, I used a template from the Memory Lab website that was perfect for all of my embellished Instagram pictures. I uploaded this layout in addition to my other prints onto their website, and everything was waiting for me when I arrived.  The employees were all complimenting me on my layout when I walked through the door, which made me temporarily feel like a rock star.  They were way less impressed when I told them that it was their template I was using, but I was still super happy with the end result and will definitely print there again.

For now, I need to get back to work if I am going to get this project done by Saturday! Thanks for joining me today!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Lake Geneva Getaway

After years of living within 15 minutes of an ocean, I find myself in a permanent state of withdrawl without one.  That said, I started this summer with a determination to rediscover my love for lakes. Not for a minute am I trying to replace the ocean that I miss so much with a lake.  One thing I have learned through all the moves is that if I look for something to take the place of what I lost, I will only be disappointed.  Instead, I try to discover the attributes of each place that make it unique and beautiful.  I am certainly not going to see pelicans or hear crashing waves at a lake beach, but Midwestern lakes, in contrast, may have sand dunes or be surrounded by fluffy trees.

Midwesterners have long been heading "up north" to the lakes of Wisconsin, Michigan, and Minnesota.  Just watch movies like The Great Outdoors and Cheaper By the Dozen 2, and you'll see what I mean.  In fact, I can trace my own love for the beach to one summer spent in Holland, Michigan as a child while my dad attended grad school.  I spent almost every single day at the beach that summer, and I haven't been the same since.

Thanks to some amazing deals at the Grand Geneva Resort, we kicked off our summer by heading up north to Lake Geneva for a couple days.  It is an easy drive from the Chicago area, and it was a perfect way to see how Brayden would fare on vacation without the risk of being too far from home if he did get sick.  Thankfully, we all stayed healthy and had an amazing time!

Highlights of the trip included evening walks by the lake, time at the beach, golfing (for my husband), shopping (for me!), and swimming at the awesome outdoor pools at the resort.  And, the fact that there was a cafe that made Starbucks in the resort certainly enhanced the trip for me. We are already planning a return trip!

I used A Beautiful Mess app (I am addicted!) to edit all pictures in this post and Instagram to add filters in 2 of the pictures.