Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Live from CBLI, it's Tuesday Afternoon

I have been trying, since I arrived at CBLI, to access the internet. Most of the time, I have been unable to (either because the connection isn't strong enough, or because the system is overloaded with people). My mind has been full of ideas and emotions, but I haven't been able to get them down, not even in a word file.

Perhaps it is merely the nature of camp life, but my overwhelming need (and thankfully, the need of my two little guys) has been for SLEEP! I have slept more than I would at home and yet every day find myself yawning more and more. One of my goals for CBLI, was to recharge my physical and spiritual batteries. I believe I am meeting that goal.

I love the feeling that I get when I am driving to CBLI. It is like the world is wide open in front of me. We had moments of this while driving. The sky was a beautiful blue, filled with numerous puffy clouds.

Then came the construction and the traffic jams. We were still headed in a glorious direction, but were momentarily (sometimes it felt quite lengthy, instead of momentary) frustrated from reaching our goal.

This is how camp tends to go with me. Highs and lows. Feelings of great spiritual stirring, mixed with times of loneliness and ache. Excitement over where we're headed, mixed with frustration that I haven't yet arrived.

We were greatly blessed in our housing this year. We received a room in the Wonderland Lodge(which is the equivalent of a large hotel room). Indeed, MS has been inviting people to our room all week, telling them that we are in the big hotel, in room 110. It is very spacious. Plus, it is conveniently located in the same building where the two boys' classes meet.

The programs so far have been outstanding as well. The first evening, kicked off with a theatrical rendering of the story of David and Goliath, by Lt. Colonel Eddie Hobgood. The second evening offered another theatrical performance, this time telling the story of "Joe the Turk," a figure of Salvation Army history.

The Sunday services featured the preaching of Commissioners Alex and Inge Hughes. During the morning service, I noticed my ES head towards the altar during the altar call at the end of the service. I was able to find my nephew, Eric, and ask him to pray with ES. As I sat nearby, praying for my son, that God would draw him close and move in his life, I became overwhelmed with the depth of God's love for ME. I was aware of the intensity of my own love for my son and began to think about how he is merely on loan to me and that, as much as I love ES, God loves ES even more. Suddenly, my own doubts concerning God's love for me were quelled.

Then, last night, we enjoyed the rousing preaching of Captain Terry Masango (from Zimbabwe, serving as a missionary here in the States, in the Western Territory). He preached of Ezekiel's encounter with the valley of dry bones. Ezekiel, of his own strength, could not raise an army from the dry bones, but he held unswerving belief and conviction that God could do that work. Captain Masango then boldly asked if any individuals were dry and in need of the Holy Spirit's filling. The altar was lined with young people, and again, my son, headed forward, this time with a group of fellow teens.

My morning classes have been equally profitable. My first class of the day is entitled, "Igniting the Hope Within You," and has been taught by Linda Himes. This class was very much like putting together a puzzle full of small pieces and then standing back to look at the whole picture. We began with the story of Ruth and looked at the role of the kinsman redeemer. Then, in following Scriptures from Genesis through Revelation, we reviewed God's plan and His fulfillment of the role as our Kinsman Redeemer. It was a powerful lesson and one which I will return to digest more fully, I'm sure.

The Bible class has been led by Commissioner Alex Hughes. With his pleasant Scottish lilt, he has inspired us to look at God's vision for the church. Time and again, I seem to be reminded that the power for creating the changes God desires in men's hearts and minds comes only from the Lord.

Of course, we have been enjoying our afternoon free times as well. Saturday and Sunday, I thought I would never be able to drag my boys away from the pool. They had such a good time (despite my inability to handle long hours in the sun). And every single afternoon, I have managed to get them both down for a nap. In fact, this is the first time they have napped and I have remained awake. So, we are getting sleep at night and in the afternoons.

I have hopes to get them down by the lake some time when another camper is fishing. Todd Thielke, who was always so good to fish with ES when he was small, has offered to let the little boys watch him fish - since I failed to bring our rods, intentionally, this year. I wasn't quite up to the prospect of fish hooks and piers mixed with two and four year old boys. I would also like to take them on a paddle boat ride before the camp ends. Plus, we haven't even made it to the snack bar once yet (ah, I love walking from their classes back to our rooms - thereby not even passing the snack bar, where people wait, in mosquito-laden darkness to purchase ice cream cones and candy bars).

When the boys awaken from this nap, we are going down to the big field to enjoy a cook-out and a "western hoe-down." We have been told this will include square dancing, line dancing, pony rides, a petting zoo, games and activities, followed by a showing of the movie, "Toy Story." Hopefully, I will remember to bring my camera to snag some photos of this festive family time.

For now, since the boys are still snoozing, I think I will join them and get just a bit more sleep. It is probably a good thing that I have been unable to access the internet. The e-mails and blogs will wait, while I recharge with much-needed rest. What a blessing CBLI is, and has been, for my family!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Too Busy Living to Write about Living

Summer is advancing all too quickly. It is not only my ES who is feeling it. I am feeling it as well. He totally feels like his summer is already over. I keep reassuring him that he has loads more fun to get through first.

We were planning to make a trip to visit Holiday World in southern Indiana this past weekend. After realizing how much we spent on our last trip to Indiana Beach, we decided that we really couldn't afford the trip to Holiday World, but would happily return to IB again. So, we opted for their Monday Madness offer (if you arrive after 4 p.m. on a Monday and pay for a full price ticket, then you get the whole next day's ticket for free).

It turned out to be one of the best trips to Indiana Beach we have ever had. We dropped ES off at IB by himself and took the little boys to check into the hotel and swim in the hotel pool. Then, we met ES for dinner and rode rides. I don't know if it was just a lucky night for us, but the ticket clerk gave YS a wrist band for free for both days. She said they usually offer kids 2 and under for free (we'd never heard this before).

I think we all enjoyed this trip because MS and YS are growing more courageous. This meant that we broke off into different pairings more often. MS and ES rode the Galaxy roller coaster (YS still calls them roaster coasters). Hubby and I both took turns riding the new Steel Hawg roller coaster with ES. I think hubby thought that I would not take the challenge or would freak out. He rode it once with ES. When I rode it, ES commented that he thought I would have reacted more strongly. I merely said, "Let's ride it again, since the line is really short."

Later in the evening on Tuesday, we had all headed over near the swings because MS wanted to ride the ride opposite of the swings (Star-something?). It is a large ride where you are seated towards the lake and the giant arm swings you around and around one direction then slows and swings you around and around the other direction. MS rode it over and over with each of us.

Then, YS wanted to ride the Music Express. (If you go here you can view all the rides, to get more of a picture of what kind of ride we were one.) This is one of those rides where you spin forward and then backward, and the momentum makes your partner slide into you. Since he is 36 inches tall and met the height requirements, I decided I would go ahead and take him on the ride. MS rode with ES. It was so fun and YS absolutely loved it. I couldn't stop giggling the whole time because YS was having so much fun on it and MS was trying so hard not to lean against ES.

We ended our evening with elephant ears and I drove home (since I'm the total night owl). I wish I could have given more time to this post, but I am really short on time right now. We are planning on leaving for CBLI tomorrow and will spend the night at my in-laws (this breaks up the drive and means we won't have to leave quite so early in the morning on Friday). I did manage to get several things packed today, but had hoped to be able to write a few posts for my absence. Alas, it just didn't happen.

I did receive a beautiful netbook for my birthday and had planned to trek over to the lodge in the evenings to access their wifi and write posts while there at CBLI. Alas, they have changed the age divisions and placed my ES in the teen track (I understand the argument, since, at 13, he is really already a teen). This means he will sleep in a teen cabin and not with us. Therefore, I won't be able to leave the little boys alone in the cabin while I wander off to write a post.

Sorry for the haphazard post, but sometimes life gets too busy to snatch up moments to write about what we are busy doing.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Bobbin' Into a Little Bit of Bob

One of the things I love most about The Salvation Army is the multitudinous connections you can make with others. I mentioned this quite a while back, when I wrote a post about meeting a New Zealand couple in England and then randomly bumping into them again in the United States at my brother's SA corps in Kentucky. But, really these kinds of things happen all the time, when you belong to (or have belonged to The SA).

Another example, would have to be the fun connection I made with Bob Hostetler. When I was growing up, I knew a great guy named Larry Hostetler (he even toured with our Northern Illinois Youth Band at one point, if my memory is correct). But, long after I had married and left the Army, I attended a writer's conference at my alma mater, Wheaton College. As I sat in Bob Hostetler's class, I did briefly think to myself, "Hey, I know somebody with the last name of Hostetler," but I didn't really think it would be a connection.

So, at one point, I headed to the front to ask a question about our assignment (I believe it was to write a back cover for our intended book). Bob Hostetler has written several books with the apologist, Josh McDowell, including one I may give to my ES (despite his dread of books), called Don't Check Your Brains at the Door. He took a look at my biographical clip, where I had mentioned published articles in both the British and American War Cry. He began to explain that I didn't need to identify the two countries. I began to attempt to explain to him that they were two different publications.

He replied, "I know. I was the editor once."

The connection became immediately clear and I wanted to know more about Bob. Alas, I also felt obligated to abide by the general rule of conduct which 3rd grade teacher, Miss Sharon McKee emblazoned upon my memory, "Your fair share of time, space and attention." There were numerous conference attendees and they all had questions for Bob. We did eventually find seats near one another at a meal, but ended up plumbing our connections more fully through a brief correspondence.

Now, I get to milk that connection and eat the scraps of this great man's table all the time because he is on Facebook and he has several blogs. Here's the scrap I wanted to share this evening. He recently wrote a thought-provoking blurb for his status line on Facebook. He wrote:

Unforgiveness is like slitting your wrists...and waiting for someone else to die.

How true! I recently dabbled in a bit of unforgiveness myself, with my hubby, sadly. However, thankfully, once you give in to forgiveness it negates the action of personal wrist slitting and you don't even need bandages. Indeed, forgiving my husband aided in healing for both of us. Just another paradoxical wisdom from God that I have to learn over and over again.

If you want to discover more about Bob, including some fantastic books (some he has read, some he has written), you can head here or here or here or here. He's all over the web isn't he. So, why not bob into a little bit of Bob for yourself?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

When the Two Year Old Discovers the Sink Sprayer

I did really well, when first informed of my high cholesterol. I virtually cut out sweets, chocolate and ice cream. Plus, I was exercising for at least a half hour, five times a week. Then came my birthday and I began to splurge on food choices. Since hubby's birthday falls two weeks after mine, the concessions continued. Then, I strained my back muscles and didn't feel comfortable enough to exercise for almost a full month. I have slowly been getting back into it and now try to exercise every other day.

I find this so difficult. It is summer-time. The livin' should be easy, right? Well, I do the best I can to fight off the food temptations (hard when little boy whining seems to bear a higher pitch message, apparently only audible to myself, calling "Dark chocolate will make this feel better!"). And, you can imagine how tricky it is to carve out a half hour of exercise time with a two year old and four year old.

So, this morning, as soon as the little boys were set up at their breakfast station (yes, I'm a slouch - I lay a vinyl tablecloth on the floor in front of the TV and pull YS's chair with booster in and set MS up with a TV tray), I headed downstairs to pop my exercise video in. At the half-way point, I went to check on the boys. YS was finished eating and wanted out of his booster & tray. I obliged, assuming he would continue to watch TV with his brother or, at least, would occupy himself with train play until I finished. (When one has a two year old, one should NEVER assume!)

Back down I went. I didn't feel like doing it. I really felt like lying down on the couch and watching TV with them (even if it was something as insipid as Dora the Explorer). But, when I finished, I was glad I had taken the time.

As I approached the kitchen to refill my water bottle, I found YS standing on a chair at the sink. He had figured out how to turn on the faucet (had only turned on the HOT valve!) and was spraying water all over the kitchen with the sink sprayer (a small hose attached to the sink, which is very useful for rinsing dishes and... now I know... flooding kitchens).

You know that you are a blogger, when your first impulse, upon catching your child in a compromised situation like this, is to grab the camera. Still, I didn't manage to get very good shots. Sorry, they are blurry.

(This last one is a horrible shot, but I was trying to show what all the wooden cabinets looked like.)

Silver lining to this rainy cloud??

  1. I was able to exercise in uninterrupted bliss.
  2. I didn't have to pay $60 to get into the Indianapolis Zoo's splash zone.
  3. It lit a fire under me to accomplish several cleaning chores I hadn't planned, like
  4. washing the kitchen floor,
  5. washing down all the counter tops, cabinets and underneath the sink,
  6. scrubbing both sinks, and
  7. washing all the laundry after finishing the dozen towels used to mop up the mess.
  8. Plus, I felt fully justified in splurging on a Dairy Queen dipped cone tonight after dinner!

I'm hoping there are no repeats, though. While I accomplished 4, 5, and 6, YS read books quietly in the confinement of his crib (interspersed with shouts of: "Can I get out yet?") Boy am I glad we still have that crib! Hubby keeps asking every night, "when is he going to start sleeping on his toddler bed at night?" Still, I chuckle, because this escapade is quite tame compared to the antics MS used to routinely pull during his second (and even third) year!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

New Zoo Review

Not to be confused with the tacky American children's television show from the 70's, this is my review of our trip to the Indianapolis Zoo last week (of course, I just wasted a half hour on You Tube watching clips of that and others, like H.R. Puff N. Stuff, Romper Room, and the Electric Company - this is just what happens when I sit down to write at my computer).

After a fairly busy week, we determined to go to the zoo on Friday. Thanks to some highway construction (yippee), we missed our exit and ended up getting a drive-by tour of the Indianapolis Airport. At least, I tried to put a positive spin on it, while our driver was ready to turn around and go back home. I said "Boys, take a look, this may be where we fly out of for our trip to Canada (to see the red-sided garter snakes emerging from their hibernation pits next spring)." Hubby interjected, "We're never goin' to Canada!" (This dialogue already says a lot about our day.)

Despite the 90 degree temperatures, we had a pleasant day. One of the boys' favorite parts in the Ocean exhibit was the shark touch tank. Thankfully, we visited this spot twice (at the beginning of the day - when fully crowded, and at the end - when it was almost empty). All three boys enjoyed touching the sharks; although, we did have to keep a strict eye on MS who wanted to touch the fin. Future vacation idea? Swimming with sharks in Florida? (After all, hubby can't veto Florida, since my parents LIVE there! Ha!)

The train has to be the biggest disappointment at the Indy Zoo. I remember feeling this way back when we used to take ES here during our vacation visits to Indianapolis. We rode it anyway, out of consideration for YS's passion for trains. Here is an example of the running commentary: "On your left, you'll see the back of the building where we provide medical treatment for the animals. On your right, you'll see the back of the maintenance building. Coming up on your left, is the back of yet another building. Be sure to notice the screened images of animals on the walls of the building on your left." And just so the trip isn't a complete waste, they added some information on recycling. This was $12 on top of the $60 entrance fee and the $5 parking fee.

Since this zoo discourages bringing food into the facility, we walked back to our van - in the nether regions of the parking lot and ate a sack lunch, relishing our air-conditioning (and the savings, of course). I'm also glad the little boys didn't hit us up for a full face tattoo either (at $9) - although, the answer would have been "No, I'll paint your face myself when we get home."

The little boys had an absolute blast at the splash area. We did remember to bring swimming suits and towels. They spent over an hour in this area, while ES and hubby went back around other exhibits. ES was especially thrilled to get a shot of one of the snakes with his jaws wide open. Of course, we hit the Desert exhibit twice as well, since MS is crazy about snakes.

When we were in the petting zoo section, we noticed a sign for a snake talk. Hubby took YS back for another thrilling view of zoo alley train ride (the tickets were $11.50 for 5 train rides or $12 for 7). MS was in heaven. I could barely get him to put his hand down (he kept wanting to ask if he could touch the snake, even though the guy had clearly indicated that the chance to touch a snake would come at the end of his talk).

I was surprised that YS wanted to touch a snake as much as MS did (although, he did tire of the activity more quickly). MS would have held that boa constrictor, if the zoo employee had let him.

From there we made our way to the Jungle exhibit, to view zebras, elephants, lions and giraffe.

Those animals couldn't hold a candle to my boys' interest in the baboons. I was hoping that ES had taken at least one shot of the adorable little baboon babies. Alas, most of the shots were of the baboon butts and winkies (believe me, if you don't have boys, you can't even begin to imagine how fascinating this aspect can be to them).

We were hoping to spend our last hour relaxing in the butterfly gardens. In past visits, this was always an enjoyable excursion because the gardens are beautiful and they run a small garden railroad. However, getting through the doors into the butterfly garden area was quite a chore this time (you have to make sure that the doors are fully sealed and it just seemed exceedingly crowded - another example of how timing for a visit can be so key). Plus the doors at the back were inaccessible (thus increasing the traffic for the entry doors). I did linger for a while inside with MS while hubby and the other two boys went to look for the garden railroad. MS asked for a penny to throw in the wishing area. I heard his wish: "I wish for a dog." Hey, at least it was a dog and not a boa constrictor!

Sadly, as we were trying to head out to the gardens to see the railroad, we were met by ES, who explained that the garden railroad wasn't running and the gardens were being readied for a wedding or something. Hubby was ready to leave, so ... no relaxing in the beautiful gardens.

Still, all in all, it was a good visit. ES floored us by his level of responsibility during the trip. He kept an eye on his little brothers every bit as much as we did and he was tremendously helpful. His stellar help even made me ask hubby to purchase a family pass (I was thinking, if he's so good with these little boys, we could do this more often, on days when ES has a half day. Alas, hubby declined my bid. Sheesh - you can't even get more frequent visits to the Indianapolis Zoo - how will we ever get to see those snakes in Canada???)

By the end of the day, I was tuckered out. I was sure that a whole day out in the heat would have zapped their energy and they would sleep like babies. Alas, no babies in my household. The two littles were wired for sound and MS couldn't sleep that night either (probably because he was anticipating his departure for music camp the following morning). Hmm, wondering if they'll have a petting zoo at CBLI this year (they had it a few other times - way cool for the little guys, and at no extra expense).

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Weighing my Words

This morning I was running late for church. It seems like a common Sunday morning problem. In the rush to get there on time, we can end up arriving emotionally spent. It wasn't THAT bad, this morning. In fact, I was slightly amused with why we were late.

I had both little boys dressed and as we headed to the door to the garage (where our mass shoe pile is located), YS happened to notice what MS was wearing. I was surprised MS had merely put the outfit on without complaining (normally, when I choose something for him he is very vocal about what he wants to wear). It was an old shirt from one of ES's first CBLI encampments. It is one of my favorite shirts, but lacking any popular character appeal, I expected it to be vetoed. It is a bright orange t-shirt with a sign on the front reading "God at Work" and bold letters in the back stating "Person in Progress."

I smiled just thinking about ES, that shirt and that camp. The program focused on construction and each child was given a hard hat and a time card to punch in when they arrived for their daily classes. They were able to drive child-size construction vehicles. It was a fabulous program (as all of the programs were, when my brother and sister-in-law were part of the planning process) and we've received tons of comments on that particular shirt.

For some reason, the minute YS laid eyes on it, he began to covet the entire outfit. Now, I'm not a big stickler on dress or appearance. I don't often dictate what they wear and I very seldom believe that clothes are a worthwhile issue to tango over. So, I turned the issue over to the two boys. I indicated that it was MS's decision. If he didn't mind going to find something else quickly, then YS could wear the size 4 outfit I had given to MS. To the benefit of our emotional state, MS agreed, but it did require extra time we didn't have.

Thus, by the time we were out the door, it was clear that we would enter the sanctuary five minutes or so after the service started (unless everyone else happened to be squabbling over clothes as well and the service started late). It is a 25 minute drive to church and this gives me time to ramble off in thought (if the little boys are quiet enough in the background).

This morning, I began to think about the service. I wondered if there would be any word on ES and the music camp he is attending (he left yesterday morning and surprised me when he, again, allowed me to hug and kiss him before he hopped in the van with all the other campers). I wondered how my little boys would behave, given the fact that their older brother wouldn't be there to help tame them, if necessary. I wondered if anyone would be available to take the boys out of the sanctuary during the sermon portion of the service (usually, it is the corps officer's son or daughter, but sometimes they aren't there).

Next, I began to brace myself for the ritualistic conversation that often takes place for me on a Sunday morning. There is an elderly woman who sits towards the back and every time I enter by myself or with my boys, she asks after my husband. I know she means well.

I realize that she is not the only one voicing such thoughts. Indeed, one of our first Sundays after we moved here, my ES and I attended a large Baptist church. We expected to arrive and attend a service, but quickly learned that the times had changed and we could only make the second Sunday School hour. Foolishly, I sent ES off with some individual offering to show him to his class (he looked like a deer in the headlights). I then, located an adult class which happened to be the marriage enrichment class.

It was hard enough to attend that class by myself (especially since I was clearly pregnant at the time). Several individuals made it harder still. They went beyond asking about my husband and began to make comments like "We look forward to seeing YOUR HUSBAND here with you, next time." (And, I think that time, I even had a legitimate excuse ... he was home with our sick MS.)

The humorous side-note to this little story is that the Sunday School teacher for ES's class would not allow him to leave. Their rule happened to be that the parent must pick the child up and we had made plans to meet by the large NASCAR sign at the back of the sanctuary. There were literally three cars in the parking lot when he and his teacher finally arrived at our designated spot. ES swore he would never attend that church again. HA!

Anyway, I'm used to this issue popping up. What I never seem to understand is what the other individuals hope to accomplish or expect me to accomplish. Do they think that I am responsible for my husband's choices? Do they think, by asking ME, that somehow he will feel the weight of their concern? Are they merely voicing a sentiment that I deeply share regarding the value and benefit of a family worshiping together?

As a pastor's child, who grew up spending most days in the Lord's house for one reason or another, I often experience deep regrets over the fact that my children are not experiencing the same spiritual nurture and instruction that I received. I do what I can to meet their spiritual needs, but realize how much I fall short. And, I should clarify, as well, that I have neglected to attend church regularly, also. Indeed, I am, part and parcel of the problem.

However, I have no control over what my husband decides to spend his time doing on a Sunday morning. And, I spent most of this morning's drive trying to determine what the best response would be. I tossed out several possible options. 1) Sarcasm: "I THOUGHT I was driving off without something ... you know how hectic it gets on a Sunday morning, getting out the door with small children." 2) Deflection: "It's nice to see you, too!" 3) Humor: "By Sunday morning, he really doesn't enjoy being around me." 4) Arrogance: "What are we going to do about THAT man? He's probably going to rot in hell."

Of course, I didn't really want to make the person squirm (even if I sometimes squirm under the weight of the question). I decided the truth would be the best bet (without necessarily identifying his true location). I decided that I would merely reply with "It is a shame he couldn't be here. I'll let him know you asked after him."

You know, already, what happened, don't you? After spending 15 minutes contemplating the scenario, it never even played out because the elderly woman wasn't even there. I don't know who I should ask about that? She's not married, so I can't approach her spouse!

Not one person pigeon-holed me about my husband's whereabouts. I did receive a few nice comments about YS's shirt, though.

And, I must add here, a cute little dialogue which took place during the service. At offering time I handed each of the boys a crisp dollar bill.

YS and MS: "Can we keep it? Can we keep it?"

Me: "We're going to give it back to God, because he gave us everything we have."

YS, looking down and noticing Washington's face, said with wonder, "Look, it's ME!"

MS also was checking out Washington and he quipped, "Mom, what does God look like?"

So, today I am thankful for that adorable shirt, even if it made us late. I'm thankful for a chance to worship, even if I sometimes have to field difficult questions. I'm thankful for my children, who keep church services fresh, even if they sometimes squirm and fidget. And, thankfully, God, unlike Washington, looks forgiving!

Monday, July 6, 2009

I Would Happily Go Back

The boys are back! They returned to infuse this quiet tomb of a house with their boisterous presence this afternoon. Thankfully, my tasks were mostly done. The house was spotless (for about five minutes, until YS dumped two baskets full of toys in the living room and the tin full of magnetic letters all over the floor). Back to the lived in look.

I did manage to stuff four boxes (BIG boxes) full of stuff to get rid of in various venues (thrift store, crisis pregnancy center, future garage sale? and children's resale shop), plus I have a box of books that I'm hoping to offer to the Lunch Bunch workers tomorrow.

Lunch Bunch is a program my little boys have been enjoying this summer (although ES was not so thrilled to join us last week, especially since a bunch of cheerleaders were practicing nearby). They go through the line and pick out a free book and then get a free lunch. We sit on the grass and they eat their lunches. Last Tuesday, MS was thrilled to see that a girl near him picked out the book "Charlotte's Web." He enthusiastically told her that we are reading that and it is a really good book. (The fact that it has a spider in it has nothing to do with it, I'm sure! wink!)

The sad thing is that I still have loads more stuff to get rid of. Still, even a little cleansing made me feel better. But all of this, is really unrelated to my title (just a bit extra thrown in there, by way of introduction).

Where would I happily go back to? Why, to my earlier Salvation Army days, that's where! Tonight, I was browsing some photos on Facebook. It always amazes me that you can log into someone else's pictures, even if you don't necessarily know that person. I noticed an album titled Chile Vacation. Since it was a Salvation Army dude posting the photos, I was fairly sure that my nephew, Eric, might show up in the photos, so I decided to browse.

Eric is participating in something that I did 22 years ago (oh my, can it be that long ago???). He is going on a Salvation Army Summer Youth Missions trip to Chile. When I went, my team ministered in the Philippines. My partner, Jody Hurula, and I were stationed at the corps in Tondo, Manila. It was a wonderful, life-changing experience and one I would love to go back to.

I remember sending letters (really long epistles, I'm sure, since I tend to be wordy, in case you hadn't noticed) back to the corps at Oak Brook Terrace, providing highlights of our trip. Now, I can view photos of my nephew before he even returns home. Amazing. I know that the corps officer posted my letters and many of the corps members mentioned how much they enjoyed reading of my experiences.

I'm sure they smiled at my naivety when I recounted that I had sung a solo there entitled, "Snowing." It is a beautiful song, to be sure, and one I was especially in love with back then. Still, in my youth, it didn't strike me as an unwise choice, despite the fact that none of the people in the Philippines had ever experienced snow. I think I should have changed the words to "And somewhere its raining ... see the drops drifting down, as the raindrops surrender to the sopping ground ... like the good grace of Jesus that now covers our sin, in the kingdom of Heaven, its RAINING again." Indeed, it did rain there an awful lot!

I really can't wait to hear about Eric's time (although, I doubt I'll hear very much, since he's not exactly a letter writer). Still, I will get to hear something about his experiences at the Summer Missions program out at CBLI in a few weeks. I'd go on another missions trip in a heartbeat ... if only I could leave my children behind with my husband. Or, better yet, how about a family mission trip (now I'm the one chuckling, since that would really require a snow like transformation, altering my husband's views towards travelling).

I also stumbled upon someone else's photos of Eric's send-off at the Central Territory's Congress. I grew up going to these congresses. So many happy memories of times hanging out with friends and of meetings and praise sessions together. I would love to go to another Congress, too.

Eric is the one on the far right.

As I viewed the photos, another funny memory entered my mind. I saw a photo of the newly-commissioned cadets (in The Salvation Army, the annual congress is the time when they commission new cadets and send them out to their appointments) flanked by the Salvation Army flags. This brought me back to my niece, Kirsten's dedication ceremony at the Norridge Salvation Army corps. I doubt any of my readers were present for that ceremony.

If they were, I'm sure the focus of their attention was, rightly, on the baby and the couple presenting that baby to the Lord. However, my memories of this dedication are all sadly skewed. I wanted to focus on Kirsten and my brother and sister-in-law. I truly did. In spirit, I was with them 100 percent.

However, I am a dweeb. I admit it. Sometimes, I just don't get things that are clearly common sense to others. If you had been at Kirsten's dedication and had focused your attention, wrongly, on me instead of that precious baby, you would have realized that you were in the presence of true dorkiness!

I was assigned to bear one of the flags for this ceremony. Bear it, I did! I bore that flag with my entire strength for the entire ceremony, never once realizing that the person on the opposite side, bearing the flag which connected to my own flag pole, had wisely placed their flag ... on. the. ground. I stupidly thought I had to hold that flag. I so wish that someone would have quietly walked up and interrupted the ceremony to place my flag stem firmly on the ground. I believe I couldn't move my arm for an entire week after that.

Still, I would happily go back to that moment, when my niece was a mere infant and my nephew hadn't even been conceived. I would go back to that time when my life was full of friends and summer missions trips and congress send-offs. I would go back to wearing a Salvation Army uniform and listening to Major Gene Anderson preach. I would go back to summer softball tournaments (even though my skills at softball were akin to my skills in flag-bearing). How happily I would march around the Norridge neighborhood again, with the hopes of bringing others into our Salvation Army ranks.

Tell ya what, though, if I did go back ... I wouldn't sing "Snowing" to the Filipino Salvationists and I wouldn't ever hold a flag up during a ceremony again. Life lessons are necessary after all.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Its Raining, Its Pouring, My Boys are Probably Driving my Husband Crazy

It is the Fourth of July here, and the rain just keeps coming down. Although it is wonderful as an incentive for cleaning the house (which I swear I have been doing a fair amount of - despite the fact that I am now on the computer), it is driving my children crazy. I called them at Grandma's house, just to be sure.

Yep, ES is whining and disgruntled because he can't do fireworks in the rain. For the past several years, my brother-in-law has invited us to his house, where they set off their own fireworks. This is not my idea of a perfect Fourth of July celebration. I worry about injuries and I miss watching "the real thing" - you know, the ones that professionals do up in the sky, the ones that make me go "ooh," and "aah," instead of "yikes - that was a close one! One of these days you're going to burn your hand off!"

The little boys are, in hubby's words, "busy and destructive." I asked if they had broken anything yet, but he said no. Then again, when I called, it was only 1 p.m. and they hadn't even been at her house for a full 24 hours.

Now, since I've taken a break from cleaning, I might as well share a photo of the cake I made for YS's half-birthday last week. The poor guy is so neglected when it comes to birthdays, even with our efforts to recognize it on his half birthday. His birthday comes just days after Christmas and so we determined to celebrate his half birthday every June.

Last June, he received one half-birthday present and no cake. This year, he received one cake and no present. When ES saw the cake, he said, "How many times are you gonna make this cake?" I purchased the cake pan for $2 at Target before ES's 2nd birthday. I made a practice cake and frosted it in front of my students (who then devoured the whole thing, without a photo op). When I made it for ES's birthday, I forgot to take a photo, so I made the dern cake again three weeks later for my own birthday and finally snapped the photo. Then, I made the cake again for MS's 2nd birthday.

So, I say, "Let them eat cake," and "Rain, rain, go away, my boys just want to go outside and play ... with fireworks!"

Friday, July 3, 2009

May the Scraps of my Life Be Woven Together to Create a Thing of Beauty

My sister and I are carbon opposites. If you saw us, you would doubt that we were indeed sisters (although, there is one photo on my mother's wall, taken at my sister's wedding where our heads are craned in toward one another and our faces look almost identical, merely graced with dark and light hair). We have always been different. Whether that is a grace or a burden, depends upon the timing of consideration.

A few days ago, my sister expressed some anxiety over her new position with The Salvation Army. She went from being a Divisional Youth Secretary (where she was involved with planning activities and camps for young people - something which is, undoubtedly, her forte!) - to sharing a city commander's position with her husband. It literally blew me away to hear her tossing out the term "worthless."

My sister is type A. When ES and I visited her, during their appointment in Key West, Florida, she hustled all three of her children in and out of showers every morning and night, had their clothes laid out for them the night before, disciplined at the moment discipline was needed, rallied her children to pick up their own mess as soon as they finished playing, preached Sunday morning's sermon, and juggled everything on her plate with extraordinary aplomb.

My best guess is that she is feeling lost as to her place in this new appointment. She is probably wanting to jump in and get things done. That is her style. That is her strength.

Which brings me again to the fact that she and I are carbon opposites. Ever since I read of her discouragement, I have been sinking myself. You see, if she can feel worthless, what in the world should I be feeling about my own life.

Apart from loving my boys with every fiber of my being, I don't really have much to show for my days. Indeed, they have left for another weekend visit with my in-laws and I am here, alone, bracing myself for another weekend of cleaning. I hate cleaning. I hate sorting. I have a hard time getting rid of things, even if, in theory, I desire the simplicity that my husband craves for our lives.

The thing is, if I could manage to organize myself better during the regular days, then I would not need these extra weekends trying to catch up on what should really be able to be accomplished in the normal hours of my housewife work-week. However, I don't organize my time well. I am anything but a type A. I find it hard to motivate myself to pick up the endless messes (or even to rally the troops to pick up their own messes), to plan a schedule of meals and have it placed on the table at a set time in the evening, or to get my children in their beds on time. I live a loosey-goosey existence. A lot of what I do depends on what I feel like at the moment. I lack self-discipline. I lack passion and vision for what I want my role to be.

Instead, I spend much of my days fighting my role (even though it is one that I personally campaigned for - if we were going to have more children, I did NOT want those children to be raised by day care workers instead of myself). I resent the expectations that I keep an immaculate house. I resent it mostly, because I feel incapable of ever living up to those expectations.

Then there are my own personal goals and dreams. Somehow, parenthood (and I understand that this is a SEASON - I know I am giving up parts of myself to focus on my children while they are still small because it goes by in a flash) has side-lined any of the things I value and enjoy. Before I became a parent, I made lists of things I wanted to accomplish in life. Now, the thought of making a list of things I want to accomplish seems daunting, unless it is a list of things I want to do with my boys before they no longer are willing to spend time with me (oh, we have been dreaming this week of a trip to Canada next spring to see the thousands of red-sided garter snakes in their snake pits at the Narcisse Wildlife Management Area!).

As I was looking at the disaster, which is my home, waiting to be tamed, I took my classic route of avoidance and logged on to read blogs. One blog I enjoy (but only visit every couple of months or so) is written by April, and is called The Two Regrets. She has four children and relishes every moment of her summer breaks with them (last summer I enjoyed reading of their trip to Mackinac Island). Of course, when I read of her successful trips, I find myself wishing my children were more like her children (with a love of reading and calm dispositions), and that seems like kind of a crummy thing to put upon them (to wish they were something other than what they are).

There are many things I appreciate about April's blog. She loves words and quilting, and her writing is often beautifully direct.

When I read this post, I began to feel a ray of hope. My life is certainly a pile of scraps on the floor. I love how she brought this image together of the quilt - a thing of beauty made of scraps stitched together during hours of loving, painstaking work.

However, I lack two things. I lack her network of supportive women (all stitching away, with her) and a belief that I, myself, am the one sewing these scraps into a thing of beauty. If I were at the helm (don't know if a sewing machine really has a helm - ha!), even with the help of others, my machine would, no doubt, get jammed and create a whole new mess.

Thankfully, I am relying on the Lord. I certainly pray that this is what the Lord is going to accomplish with my scraps. Moreover, if He is the designer, then I can rest assured that the final product will be good - even if at times I feel like all the scraps of my life are dull pieces of uninteresting, worthless fabric.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Oozing Creativity

Some people are so amazingly creative, it just floors me! Naturally, when I happen upon such an individual, and especially, one who blogs, I have to favorite their site and share with my readers.

Tonight I discovered Megan at http://www.myplumpudding.blogspot.com/. This woman absolutely oozes creativity. If I had more time, I would have read her entire archive full of posts. Alas, I think I only made it back to February of 2009. Still, my brain is full of several creative ideas she shared which I want to try.

My boys are gonna love some of her food ideas. I was drawn immediately to her spaghetti dogs post. My two little boys eat fettuccine alfredo with chicken and broccoli (which we call "broccoli with slurpy noodles") once or twice a week. They love to slurp the noodles and pretend that they are sucking up worms (ah, boys ...). I can't wait to see MS's face when I serve the spaghetti dogs (without any warning, of course). I'm thinking about serving it with a bowl of tomato sauce and spinach (seaweed) for them to dip the octopuses in. I'm sure MS will say that it is blood.

They are sure to enjoy her crescent suggestion, too. We recently made pigs-in-a-blanket. MS loves to help in the kitchen. He had a ball rolling the hot dogs up into the crescent roll dough. I'm pretty sure he could come up with some of his own creative recipes, if I let him.

Indeed, having a creative son, encourages me to find these creative bloggers because he outpaces me every day. This morning he asked if we had any paper cups. I had no clue why he was asking, but I got the box of Dixie cups down. He asked for ten of them. His final creation? A snake of cups held together by tape with a paper forked tongue and googly eyes. Sadly, it met its demise, in the hands of a younger brother, before I could get a picture.

He also made two mummies walking (still on that 3-D theme). When my parents were here for a visit, my mother kept trying to get MS to draw her something she would actually want to take and display (i.e., something other than that which he obsesses about, Halloween characters, spiders and snakes). She asked him to draw a flower, but he never did concur. I think she went home with a few spiders.

Here is a view of our wall (again, a ton more remains on the floor, but some he insists on displaying on the wall):

Moreover, the other day he blessed us with a life-size boy, anatomically correct, of course!

Maybe tomorrow, I'll check and see what kind of things Megan posted back in October. If she had a creative idea for every day of that month, I think my MS could go through her ideas in the space of a week (especially if it has anything to do with his favorite holiday - and could someone tell me why that is his favorite holiday, because I still can't figure it out, apart from the dressing up bit).