Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Bandos, Baseball and Booths - Oh My!

The school year is winding down, but it always feels like a ramp up to me.

In the past week we watched Caitlin's final concert of the year during which she had a wonderful solo that lasted a full two and half measures. She nailed it. I really appreciate these concerts because: a) The high school auditorium is soooo much nicer than the bleachers/folding chairs in the junior high gym; b) I love classical music/orchestras and I don't often get to attend such events anymore as our cultural entertainment budget has dwindled to zero and c) I love to watch my daughter's joy as she taps her feet and bobs her head to the music.

Two different bands performed a total of nine songs. This particular event lasted over two hours so that dozens of graduating seniors could be showcased on slides, and they could break for not one, not two, but three separate awards ceremonies with speeches, hand-shaking and some hugging for juniors, seniors, band directors and parent volunteers. I'm sure in three years, I'll be content to sit for three plus hours when it's my kids' last high school concert.


Last night Ryan and his fabulous coach (aka my husband) doubled their wins with their second victory of the season. It was a really nice night (albeit a bit windy) and so good to see the boys bounce back again after being down 9-3 in the third. They won 13-11. Even better - they cheered each other on with real enthusiasm (or real enough to convince me and the other "sportmanship police" parents).

I didn't get to see the actual victory since I left a little early to pick Caitlin up from a Gifted Expo at another local high school. When I dropped her off (fifteen minutes late) all our frustration melted away as just 25 feet into the hallway we bumped into Caitlin's favorite former classmate from Magnet standing ready next to her display booth. A little ways further down the path led us to two more students who had been with Caitlin from third through eighth grade - at which point Magnet ended and all the gifted students from around the district landed at their respective high schools. Very few landed with Cait. Their reunion was sweet. The icing on the cake was getting to hear about the new student Caitlin met just before I picked her up. Another young lady with Asperger's Syndrome whose project was all about the condition and what it was like to live with it. Apparently, they really hit it off. I wish I had seen that.

I spent a lot of time the past couple of days driving back and forth to the same destinations for drop off and pick up wondering if it would be better to kill an hour or two and stay put with gas at four bucks a gallon - OR - catch the next kid at the next thing while sacrificing some transit time.

Today I got home at 2:35pm. Maggie and Ryan had already been home almost a half hour. They were lounging around, unmotivated, no homework to speak of (they are officially done "learning" for the year with a mere two and half days of school left) and hungrily looking for snacks. It occurred to me this is a preview of my home for the next ten or so weeks.

I'm looking forward to summer, but I can honestly say, the concerts, games and expos will be missed.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Self Control

It's a Monday, which means it's my day off. Typically on my day off I tend to the household chores - like laundry and grocery shopping and balancing the checkbook. Today is no exception. Though today I also met some friends for lunch and took Maggie to the doctor for a follow-up appointment since she was diagnosed with walking pneumonia last week. Today was her first day back at school. I pulled her from gym which is her last class for the day. They are currently engaged in the one activity she enjoys - ultimate frisbee. Unfortunately, her doctor told her no exertion until she got cleared. While she is much improved, both the doctor and the PE teacher agreed she's done with gym for the year. If her last period of the day were science, she'd have been way more thrilled I came early to get her.

I washed three loads, balanced the checkbook (not pretty, but balanced), ran the dishwasher and made out the grocery list. And the common thread/theme in all my thoughts and activities which began over the weekend and is continuing today is "rein it in."

It started Friday. I had worked half a day and came home to be with Maggie who was coughing up a right lung (ironically, her left lung is clear). My back was still ailing from the week before and my boss had called in sick for the first time in forever. So instead of continuing the work at home, I gratefully logged out and ended my productivity for the week - both at work and at home. I laid on my back and did pretty much nothing the rest of the day. Dan took Caitlin and Ryan to my mother-in-law's where they were sort of celebrating her 55th wedding anniversary (my father-in-law, unfortunately, is still in the rehab center). Maggie and I watched the new Muppets movie. It was adorable and a fun trip down memory lane for me.

Saturday, Ryan had a double header - or a header and a half if we're being literal - he and Dan had to be at the ballfield at 9am to finish a rain delay from Thursday and then play their 11am scheduled game. It was 90 degrees by the time the second game started. We had the field by the creek. None of the fields have shade. There was an intermittant cloud or two and the breeze was blowing now and again, thank God, but other than that little relief from the heat. So, as you might imagine, moods became increasingly irritable as the game went on and we continued to lose. The first game was no better. The crankiness multiplied exponentially with every comment that proceeded out of the mouth of the very vocal opposing coach. Like several of the parents who sat just feet away from where he was perpetually coaching 1st base - they tended to be at bat for much lengthier times than we were - I was ready to take action to silence the man. I can be vocal, too. My friends and family will tell you I pretty much have one's not quiet. The responses that kept floating around in my head were itching to get out but I was well aware that they would serve no good purpose if they did. I didn't manage to keep them unspoken but by God's grace I did manage to only whisper them to my husband who wisely gave me a cautionary look and refrained from dropping to that level with me.

Later that evening we headed to my brother-in-law's house to see a visiting nephew. Which meant lots of appetizers and drinks. I'm not much of a drinker but I must admit that summer weather and relaxing decks tend to entice me to partake. I abstained. More because I was on meds and driving than any worthier conviction, but they were effective deterrants. I also stuck to the veggie platter. Until I saw the guacamole. Fortunately it was almost gone when I did.

Sunday had me at church twice, first for services and then for our annual business meeting. The morning was wonderful and I enjoyed the last meeting of our post service discussion group before breaking for the summer. I even managed to listen more than I spoke. Before the business meeting, I took Maggie and Ryan to Kohl's because I had tons of coupons and he needed sandals and she needed a bathing suit. We were unsuccessful in the swimsuit department, but did find a decent pair of sandals at the last minute when looking at sunglasses (which truly are helpful for baseball when trying to catch those pop-ups). I promptly put the more expensive pair back and was able to use all three of my coupons and pay only $10 for both items. Instead of hitting a drive-through on a busy day, we ate leftovers. Then I made my way to the business meeting.

It was good to hear all the ministry reports. Though I tend to have the inside scoop, there are always "God at work" stories I haven't heard yet and this meeting didn't disappoint. There were plenty of inspiring testimonies. I was especially encouraged by the report from the treasurer oddly enough. Being on staff, I'm pretty familiar with most of the content of these meetings ahead of time, but seeing the Lord's provision through the generosity and faithfulness of the congregation was amazing. Especially because there was a real concern we wouldn't meet all our expenses for the first time in the church's history. We ended up with a surplus. My instinct would be to allocate that to any number of staffing needs, but our board isn't so rash. Their temperament allows for both faith and wise stewardship.

So today, when I thought of all the things there were to do and how many of them I could reasonably get done I decided almost immediately to stop and ask God what was on his agenda for me. Because He never overschedules. I spent a good amount of time in His Word before moving on to the other tasks and found myself much more able to "rein it in" when I was tempted to step out of bounds. I drove a little slower on the highway. I gave my back a break and carried fewer clothes up and down the stairs at one time. I even left half of my french fries in the basket at lunch. And I didn't blow a gasket when my daughter called and asked to stay after school for a spur of the moment band project and then called back ten minutes later and said "False alarm - Could you pick me up now cause I missed the bus?"

Galatians 5:22-23 tells us self-control is a fruit of the Spirit. I often think I should be bearing much more of that kind of fruit. I'm grateful for all the reminders I was given these past few days to do just that.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Baseball Rally

Tonight I went to watch my son's team play baseball. They were 0 and 4 going into tonight's game and were up against an undefeated team with a couple of pitchers who looked like they were in the majors instead of 7th or 8th grade. I arrived at the bottom of the second inning and we were down seven nothing.

By the bottom of the 4th we were down twelve nothing and the parents began to discuss what the current slaughter rule was. For the record, it's up by 15 in the 5th. We weren't far off. The boys looked lifeless out on the field and honestly that was more disturbing than the score. They seemed resigned to their impending defeat. I thought about going home to play board games with my daughters. But I prayed and I stayed.

There are a lot of engaged parents on this team which is nice. Many of them make an effort to watch every game, or at least a few innings since they may have other kids on other fields. So we did our part to call our boys over and give them pep talks which consisted mostly of encouraging them not to give up, to have some fun, but above all to be a team - we pleaded with them to talk to each other, to pep each other up, to rally.

ral·ly 1 (rl)
v. ral·lied, ral·ly·ing, ral·lies
1. To call together for a common purpose; assemble: rally troops at a parade ground.
2. To reassemble and restore to order: rally scattered forces.
3. To rouse or revive from inactivity or decline: paused to refresh themselves and rally their strength.
4. To recover abruptly from a setback or disadvantage: The stock market declined, then rallied. The home team rallied in the ninth inning to win the game.

One of the kids took our urging to heart and even though he began the next inning on the bench, he called out encouragement to each of his teammates. We quickly named him our new favorite player. Even over our own sons. Next thing you know, we're at bat again and we bring one in. Phew it's not a shut-out. Then another two cross the plate before the third out. Okay. That's better. Our guys take the field and next thing you know, three up, three down and we're back to the plate.

Soon two more of our kids start chattering to each other and then a third. One at a time we get on base, steal a couple and bring some more across home plate. Now it's a game - we're only down three, then two, then one. My son is 3 for 4 - his best game ever for hitting. I tell him at his last at bat if he gets on base we're going to Dairy Queen for sure, but the truth is he's going to DQ either way because he's got so much heart right now and has given it his all and I am so proud of all of them for not playing dead.

Our boys revive, and look alert. We see their posture change as they realize they have a shot at winning. Their confidence is contagious and they start making plays they had been missing all night. The other team puts another one on the board but we're still only down two.

We tie it.

Then we go ahead.

Then we get an insurance run.

Then it's all up to the defense. And they are baseball ready , focused, everyone's cheering on the pitcher who's dominating the plate. Only one kid gets on, but he steals and we're not out of it yet. But we don't give up and we don't give in. It's down to the last out and this great hitter on the other team who represents the tying run is up - he hits a high pop up behind 3rd plate and one of our smaller kids is running backwards to get underneath it and makes a spectacular catch on his back to win the game.

I wish I had my camera for what happened next. Our whole team running to third base, the first one there lifts the kid in the air and hugs him as if they'd won the pennant and soon a huddle of yellow jerseys are circled around jumping and cheering after winning their first game. But it doesn't last long, because they quickly come in and line up for the high-five procession with the other team, congratulating them on a great game, patting former teammates on the back like great sportsmen and smiling ear to ear.

I ran to give the coach a big kiss (it's okay, I'm married to him) for never losing his cool and finding something positive to say to each and every kid on the team. We circled around for the post game speech and listened as it was explained there couldn't possibly be one game ball given for what the whole team accomplished tonight in the best rally we've seen in little league.

Then we went to Dairy Queen.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Mother's Day Momentos

Another Mother's Day has come and gone. Sometimes it feels a little like my wedding day...I anticipate it for months and it's over in the blink of an eye.

The best part about Mother's Day is the cards my kids still make me. Although not having to plan for or prepare a meal is a close second.

This year my kids did not disappoint...

Ryan made me a hot pink card with lots of hearts in art class at school. He's not much of a writer but he made up for it by reading Scripture in our church service Sunday morning. Watching him get up in front of everyone and read from 1 Kings 17 was a gift to me. He spoke clearly and loudly and most surprisingly, slowly from the passage about the widow and son that the prophet Elijah stays with when he first begins his ministry. The son has a severe illness and dies, but Elijah pleads with God to restore his life and God answers his prayer, raising the boy from the dead. I am so grateful for the life of my son and for the faith he shares in our Lord.

Maggie bypassed the card idea and made me a Mother's Day book, which she illustrated and stapled together herself. She listed many reasons why she loves me and included a Twix bar with a purple (my favorite color) bow on top that she paid for with her own money. She also spent most of the day with me, when the other two kids were tired and didn't want to do anything, Maggie happily joined me for some much needed shoe shopping (and shared my excitement in being able to use our big coupon on the day it expired). I also bought her a belt at the resale shop. She reacted as if I'd gotten her a Coach purse. I truly appreciate her grateful heart and thoroughly enjoy her company.

Caitlin made me a two-page spread full of her impeccable cartoon drawings comparing all the "best" relatives in the comic world with the best mom of the real world (in her opinion that was me). And she surrendered one of her own Barnes & Noble gift cards as a present for the Mom who rivals her love of books. She's been emptying the dishwasher without being asked all week and making a conscious effort to pitch in more around the house. Her unique outlook, sense of humor and enthusiasm bring joy to my life.

My amazing husband who has been picking up the slack for more than a week while I've been down for the count with a bad back, continued the laundry, mowed the lawn, brought me flowers and arranged for Chinese dinner from our favorite takeout place!

I know how blessed I am to have the husband and children God has mercifully given me. Sitting on the brink of having three teenagers in the house I am also struck by the fact that I have not once heard one of my kids tell me they hate me, that I don't know anything or that they wished they lived somewhere else! I'm not taking credit for that achievement, I think that's God's grace too, but I can tell you I am certainly thankful for it and for a day that "rewards" me for having a role I adore.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012


This past weekend I took Ryan and one of his buddies to see The Avengers. Truth be told I think I was looking as forward to this film as they were, although I didn't count down the hours and minutes to movietime like Ry did.

I had joked with him about going to the midnight show when it was released because we were anticipating it so much. Well, half joked - I was the only middle aged woman without a tween in the theater at midnight when The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King came out. That was a 3+ hour movie and morning came quick the next day. But this release was a school night so they had to wait till Friday. I did buy the tickets online in advance and we showed up 45 minutes early which was a good thing because we were about 40th in line at that time (and that was the 2D screen)!

The Avengers did not disappoint. It was seriously spectacular and accomplished the rare feat of not just meeting, but exceeding my expectations, which were in fact, pretty high. It's not easy to develop a variety of characters in any story and the more characters you have the greater the challenge. I'm not sure how they managed to give equal time and attention to so many big personalities without sacrificing the dialogue or the plot, but I'm glad they figured it out.

I can't explain my appreciation for superheros or fantasy film, and it doesn't all appeal to me. I'm eager to see the next Batman film, but not Spiderman. I love X-Men. Fantastic Four wasn't even a blip on my radar. I'm not a comic-con purist who knows how far the movies stray from the original characters, I would never dress up for opening night as a character and I don't have a preference for Marvel over D.C. or vice-versa.

You could just chalk it up to entertaining action heroes with good acting, good directing and amazing special effects. But I guess what really appeals to me is a group of people (or I guess in some cases, otherworldly people) sacrificing for others. Yeah I'm sure there's a bit of an ego trip bonus for some heroes (yes, I mean you Iron Man) but ultimately they are people who use special gifts to benefit the underdogs. They defend the downtrodden, fight for the marginalized and often take the place of those who can't stand up for themselves.

There's something Christlike about that.

And when there's a whole team of them it's a little bit like displaying the body of Christ - many members of one family all with different functions and all serving a purpose.

Maybe that's why I like Superheroes.

Monday, May 7, 2012


I've often wondered how many people make their living as consultants, and of those who do, how effective and/or successful they have been. Consulting implies expertise in a given field.

Today I drove up to a church in Racine, Wisconsin to meet with eight women who serve as administrative professionals at a large church there. The purpose of my going (in theory) was to advise them on how to best support their pastors while maintaining healthy boundaries. Effective time management was a universal concern. I have not been pursuing any type of consultant work and this invite came as a great surprise, but after much prayerful consideration I decided to give it a shot.

I'm glad I didn't rush into it. We've been corresponding back and forth for several months which has allowed me valuable time to both prepare and consider what I'd be bringing to the table. It's always good to know what someone's objectives are before you go trying to meet them.

Because our work is in essence ministry, I decided to start with a devotion that I "borrowed" from one of our pastors from Exodus Chapters 3 & 4 when God tells Moses he's the chosen leader who gets to deliver the Israelites out of Egypt. Those who know the story remember Moses was less than thrilled. In fact his first response was "Who am I that I should go?" I personally think that's a very healthy perspective. I thought about that myself when considering if I would use my only day off this week and have these nice folks pay my mileage to come and hold a workshop for them. I mean, "Who am I that I should go?"

I thought long and hard about what I had to offer and reminded myself I may end up learning as much as I "taught" before I got in the car. Turns out that several of them found at least part of what I shared very helpful. And it did end up being a good learning experience for me. I'm not sure that anyone was convinced I was an expert in my field, least of all me, but maybe that wasn't the point. Maybe it's enough to provide a little insight, simplify a thing or two and extend some relief.

I don't think I'll be rushing into the consulting business anytime soon, but I'm glad for the opportunity to wade in those waters.

Next up...I think I may have to consult someone about my back pain....