Friday, July 25, 2008

Mountain Adventure

Yesterday was a day filled with friends and fun! We started off the morning with a tie-dying party hosted by my creative friend, Kim. Here's Perry's finished product.

His daddy was telling him tonight how cool his shirt looked, and I was agreeing that it came out great. P responded, "Thanks." Then he looked at me and said, "Although you really did all the work." At least he's honest. Although he found the whole process quite interesting, all that rubberband tying and soaking just took too darn long!

Later in the day, we met up again with our summer fun buddies, the Statzers and the Crouses, and set out for Stone Mountain.

The kids were all very excited to tackle the new Sky Hike (which has been heavily advertised on TV this summer, hence their excitement). We decided to start at the Barn, though, a HUGE, multilevel playplace filled with things to climb, balls to shoot, slides to try, and stuff to explore. I don't have any good pictures of that because I couldn't catch the kids long enough to shoot any!

After some fun in the barn, we boarded the Sky Lift and headed for the top of the mountain.

Being "on top of the world" was Perry's favorite part. He was running all around, wanting to see it from every angle, shouting, "Come over here, Mommy! Look at this!" I loved watching him!

I got some great pictures up there, and I hope I was able to capture even a little of his joy, awe and excitement. I want to remember that!

Here he is checking out the Atlanta skyline.

We then made our way to the much-anticipated Sky Hike. Robin, Ethan, Caroline, Perry and I suited up in our oh-so-flattering (and comfy!) climbing gear and strapped in to tackle the first level. It was quite daunting once you were up there, but the kids were very brave. P was proud of himself for getting past his initial fear and conquering that whole 1st level, but he did decide that was enough for him. Caroline, Ethan and Robin continued on to the 2nd level, which we hear was a real challenge! I can't imagine what level 3 is like (it's 36 feet off the ground!).

Here we are getting ready to take it on!

Perry on one of the "elements".

There was more fun to be had in the area around the Sky Hike, including a "jr." Sky Hike and a rock wall.

Sarah, the youngest of our kids, was the first to make it to the top of the wall!

Later in the evening, the dads joined us for a picnic dinner and the Lasershow.

There was more laughter and fun with friends...
There was dancing...

Don't ask. I have no idea where he learned that dance.

And, of course, there was singing. Robin and I treated the group to a lovely rendition of "I Will Always Love You," and we ALMOST hit that note! : )

Scott impressed us with his ability to sing EVERY WORD of "The Devil Went Down to Georgia."
Eric, Perry and I cheered loudly when Georgia Tech was featured (although we may have been a slight minority in that crowd). Ha -- not even sure you could hear us over all the booing Georgia fans.
Of course, the kids enjoyed their glow sticks and flashing necklaces.

And a great time was had by all (except maybe the folks sitting around us enduring our singing and such).

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

For His Glory

It's been a tough week.

Although I have thought and prayed about how much to share here, I can't shake the feeling that I really should share. I don't know if it's for you or for me, but I feel that I must write about it.

We found out early this week that we are having another miscarriage. This is number 5, and it has been, of course, sad and exhausting. However, God has chosen this time, as He often does, to show up and make Himself known in some really amazing ways.

Because of our particular fertility issues and my history of early miscarriage, I was hesitant to even take a pregnancy test. Once we see that positive test, the loss becomes much more real and more difficult. It became apparent a little over a week ago, though, that I was most likely pregnant, and a test confirmed that. Well, the day afer I tested, I started some light spotting. I thought that was surely the beginning of the end.

That very night, I got an email from my sweet friend Kim, whose faith and intimacy with God are such a blessing to me! She said that she had been praying for me and felt strongly that when I got a positive test, she was to come over and lay hands on me and pray for me. I expressed my gratitude to her but told her that I thought this one wasn't looking good.

Well, I continued to just have very light spotting, nothing more, for several days. This is not a normal pattern for my miscarriages, so I wasn't sure what to think. Last Wed. evening, we attended a class at church, and afterwards there was a special time of prayer.

We started off praying for the church and our community, and then our pastor called for several groups of people to come forward for prayer -- business owners, those in need of a job, those recently diagnosed with disease, etc. Well, he then called for one more prayer, saying, "Is there anyone here who is struggling to conceive."

Talk about being blown away. I hesitantly lifted my hand, and Eric and I were the only ones who went forward for this prayer. As our pastor prayed, he not only asked that God open my womb, but he prayed at length that we would give birth to a child who would grow to love the Lord and make a difference for Him. It was really amazing and overwhelming to know that God orchestrated these moments for us and led our pastor to this prayer, at this time.

We have walked through this wilderness for 4 1/2 years now (since P was about 1 yr. old), and this is the 1st time someone has prayed for us so specifically and publicly. Twice in one week God led someone in our lives to speak His words to us about this.

I began to feel such peace and hope, just knowing that no matter what happened with this pregnancy, God had shown us that His hand is in this situation. He has not forgotten us, He has not forsaken us, He has not denied us. He is saying clearly that we should not lose hope.

When we were still uncertain at the end of the week, Kim and her husband did come over and share a very special time of prayer with us. Again, the Lord used them to speak words of truth and hope over us.

Eric and I had a date that night, and we talked at length about faith and trust and hope. We read through stories in the Old Testament about women whose wombs were bare, and how the Lord chose to open each one in His time. Although I had heard each of these stories before, I was really struck by the emotion in each of them, the details about how each woman was feeling as she cried out to God to give her a child.

As we left the doctor's office on Monday, Eric commented on how different it was this time -- that I handled the whole thing much differently and seemed much more at peace. I really feel that way, too. As I told him then, although the disappointment and feeling of loss are the same, I don't feel hopeless or abandoned. That makes all the difference, and, as Eric said to me this evening, the way I feel emotionally right now is truly a miracle.

There is much more to the story, but this is already quite long (I hope I haven't lost you)! The point is, although we now know that this pregnancy is ending, there is no devastation with God this time. I am sad, I am exhausted, and it is incredibly hard.

But I am thankful.

I thank Him that He is my loving Father. He is holding us through this time, and He is showing us that He is in control.

This is for His glory.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Audience participation, please

This week, Perry has been attending art camp at his school. He has loved every minute of it, both because of the art and because his best bud from school has been there, too.

His mornings at camp have given me some time, and I've been spending most of it trying to plan what I'm going to teach the children that will show up in my classroom in a mere 3 1/2 weeks.

I am so excited about this upcoming year because I will be teaching at Perry's school, and it's a private Christian school, which opens up such great new opportunities for me as a teacher. Also, this will be my first year having a regular, all-day, self-contained elementary classroom. I am thrilled about having that time to know this group of kids and really "bond" with them. I am both thrilled and humbled to have this chance to impact these kids academically, socially and spiritually.

All that to say that I want this to be a FABULOUS year! And I'm asking for YOUR HELP! Please comment and let me know your thoughts on any or all of the following (I will be teaching 4th grade, FYI):

1. Teachers/former teachers -- What are the "must-dos" in your classroom? What have you done that has worked really well for you? Activities, class procedures, organization, 1st week activities, etc.

2. What was your favorite teacher like? What did he/she do that made him/her so memorable for you?

3. What are some things you did in school which had an impact, either educationally or personally?

4. Anything else???

I will have a brand new classroom this year (I even got to pick the paint color!). They built a new section onto the school, so I am really starting from scratch! While that is a bit overwhelming, I look at it as such a fantastic opportunity to make my classroom what I want it to be.

So, please, any ideas you have for my classroom organization, management, activities, etc., CHIME IN! : )

Thanks a million!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

A boy after my own heart

One of my favorite ways to relax is to take a hot bath, and, if I have some time, I usually take a good book with me.

Tonight, after we'd finished the mandatory washing part of Perry's bath, the time came when he usually gets some toys and plays for a few minutes. This time, though, he said, "I'm just gonna stay in here for a little while, like you do," and he laid back to relax.

"You need a book to read," I said.

So he asked Daddy for one of his I Can Read books and kicked back.

I just thought it was too funny. One of those moments when you realize they are always watching, and they do love to imitate!

Oh yeah, and Perry wanted y'all to see what he's learned to do recently.

After trying and trying, and declaring several times that he thought he "just had to be a little bit older to blow bubbles," he got it!

Friday, July 11, 2008

3 feet of me

I haven't talked about this much on the blog because, you know, fear of public failure and all, but I have been working really hard the past 3 months to lose weight and lead a healthier lifestyle. It has not always been easy, but, to be honest, I don't think it's been as hard as I thought it would be.

I went in this morning to meet with my weight loss counselor (who has been KEY to the success I've had!), and she did measurements for the 1st time since I started losing. I've lost 26.4 pounds, but even more exciting might be the almost 3 feet I have lost off my body! 34 inches of me are gone. I was really amazed that inches came off of every part of my body, even my neck (1 1/2 inches smaller -- weird), ankles, knees.

Maybe I'll do some "before and after" pictures at some point. I still have a ways to go, but nothing motivates me to lose like losing does. : )

I do have to say that this experience has been much more than just a physical change for me. I've tried so many times to lose weight, and I have really had food addiction/emotional eating issues my whole life. I had to begin to look at this as a spiritual issue and find strength from God to deal with the frustrations along the way. He loves me and wants the very best for me --including the very best for my body and my health. It's not about looking better, but about living better, serving Him better, loving myself more so I can love my family and others better, etc.

Hopefully He will continue to give me victory in this area of my life and continue to teach me along the way.

Here's one other important lesson from this journey. I have always had LOTS of clothes. I love them, I love to shop, and I love having variety in my closet. Well, as I've lost weight, of course, I've "lost" clothes. I haven't wanted to buy much at all because I want to lose more. Plus, it's summer, and I'm not working, so I don't need too many nice things right now. As a result, I've worn the same few items repeatedly this summer. I have had to learn to put less importance on my clothes, and that I can have confidence in ME, not just in my attire.

Don't get me wrong, I still LOVE clothes, but I do see that much of my having to dress "just so" was a result of a general dislike for how I looked and felt about myself.

Of course, once I get to a point where I really like how I look, I will enjoy dressing that new body! I pray, though, that I will keep it all in perspective.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Our Week: West Palm Beach to Antarctica

It's a stormy afternoon, and I have some blogging to catch up on! Here's the latest in our summer adventures.

Traditionally, we spend the 4th of July at my dad's house, where we have a big annual shin-dig. There are about 4 days of competitions. Everyone competes with their spouse (except for my little sister -- she's only 22 and not married. She gets to pick a partner each year, which is not fair really, since she's found some real ringers in her college athlete friends!) in bowling, pool, karoake, softball, golf, cooking, and more. It's always been a really fun tradition and the source of many memories.

This year, however, my sister, Lana, and her family couldn't attend. They are deep in the big adventure that is starting a business! They opened an indoor playground a few months ago, and that has kept Lana too busy to travel (or even to take a day off, most of the time). Check out the link on the left side of the blog to learn more about The Monkey Room. We missed them, but we will get to New Orleans to see them very soon.

So we did travel to see Big Daddy, Gamma, and Auntie Amanda, and we had a great visit. It was a much quieter trip than usual -- mostly we just hung out and enjoyed the company. We did make it to the beach (which we've NEVER done in all the years we've travelled to W. Palm), but it was raining, so we weren't there long. It was fun, though, because we took all of the dogs, and they all tried out the water. Samson ran straight in, but when he realized what was going on, tried to make a quick exit!

We spent one morning at a little water park, and that was a big hit! I managed to get some pictures there.

Here's Perry hanging out with Gamma.
There were 2 fairly large water slides. This one had a 120 lb. weight limit. Unfortunately, the rest of us JUST BARELY missed that cut, so P enjoyed that one all by himself. : )
P LOVED hanging out with Auntie Amanda and her friend, Savannah (who was visiting from Chicago). He wants them to come live with us. He said last night that, "it would be just like having 2 sisters!" How fun to have such a young, hip aunt! Much better than hanging out with us old, parental types all the time.

There was a large pool with 2 diving boards. I think that alone could have kept Perry entertained all day! The adults tried it out, too. Of course, Eric has had to take muscle relaxers ever since, but, hey, we're livin' on the edge!
Kind of reminds me of the time my mom jumped off a cliff into the lake when I was a teenager. There was some sitting on an inflatable donut after that, I believe.
Sorry, back to the pictures!

Here is another contributor to the sore muscles of the old folks -- the "obstacle course." P was determined to make it across. He got all the way to the final 2 "rungs," but they were too high for him to reach, and he fell in. The lifegaurds were quite impressed with his determination and kept commenting about him as he made his way across.

Sorry, no pics of our attempts. They were too embarrassing.

Yesterday, after a day of rest from our long trip, we ventured out to Fernback with friends. I have not been there in years, and, let me tell you, it was much more fun taking my own child than it was when I took 100 7th graders!

The special exhibit was all about penguins, polar bears, etc. The IMAX movie about Antarctica was really neat -- a great summer educational opportunity!

Here are some highlights. You can read more about it and see more pictures on Kim's blog, too. (I know, I know, you just can't get enough of us, can you?)

The whole gang with a BIG dino!

Perry and Sarah checking out some dinosaur footprints.

This young "tour guide" showed the kids how to find fossils in the floor tiles. They found them everywhere, all day long -- on the stairs, in the bathrooms -- EVERYWHERE!

Perry, the weather man. This is a picture of the TV. He was actually in front of a green screen. He had fun with it, but was quite confused about how to accurately point to different things. He was telling Eric about it last night, and he said, "When you put this hand up, the other hand went up!" That whole reversed image thing is very confusing!
Here's more from the hands-on science lab area. There were so many cool experiments to try!

In the exhibit about the Arctic and Antarctic, the kids tried out walking like penguins, sliding down an iceberg, playing an iceberg game, and even trying to care for penguin eggs by placing them between their feet, like male emperor penguins do!

And that's just the tip of the iceberg! (groan! Sorry, I couldn't resist.) There was so much more we saw and did. Definitely a trip worth taking again!

As an added bonus, we stopped off at the Dekalb Farmers' Market afterwards. We got some great deals on fresh produce and found some wonderful specialty items to support our healthy eating goals. We'll be going back there soon, too!

Friday, July 4, 2008

My Meme

My friend, Kim, "tagged" me for a meme. Although I had no idea such a thing existed until about a week ago when I saw one on someone else's blog, I'll give it a go...

The rules of the game get posted at the beginning. Each player answers the questions about themselves. At the end of the post, the player then tags 5 people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know they’ve been tagged and asking them to read your blog. Let the person who tagged you know when you’ve posted your answer.

What was I doing 10 years ago?:
I had finished my 1st full year teaching, and I spent that summer in New Hampshire with my boyfriend at his parents' house. We shopped for rings that summer, and that boyfriend soon became my hubby and his parents my in-laws! I worked at a YMCA camp as the Arts and Crafts Director.

What are 5 things on my to-do list for today?
To-do list? On a holiday? Not much of one today. Ummm... let's see
1. Spend time with my family.
2. See fireworks.
3. Eat (without gaining any weight!) : )
4. Have fun.
5. Thank God for the blessing of living in the USA!

Snacks I enjoy:
Protein bars
Baby carrots and hummus

Things I would do if I were a billionaire:
Live debt-free
Give to my church (and to other causes the Lord brings my way)
Pay off my family members' homes
Adopt a child
Buy a lake house/beach house and a ski chalet (or maybe just one house on Lake Tahoe, where I could do both!)

Places I have lived:
Oxford, Ohio
Jacksonville, Florida
Calvert City, Kentucky
Marietta, Georgia
Woodstock, Georgia
Dallas, Georgia
Newnan, Georgia

Jobs I have had:
TCBY yogurt girl (my 1st job!)
Little Caesar's Pizza
Waitress (several places)
Instructor and Program Director at The Little Gym
7th Grade Teacher
Elementary Gifted Teacher

People I want to know more about:

I know that's only 4, but I think Kim took my only other blogging friends. : )

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

My heart will choose to say, Lord, blessed be your name

Today is a very busy day for us, and I have lots to do in the next few hours. However, I really felt that I needed to stop and reflect on some of what I learned this weekend at the Deeper Still conference in Atlanta.

First of all, my mom came into town with 2 of her friends to go with us, and I am so glad they did! I always love sharing these experiences with Mom and being able to talk about what we learned. Even days, weeks, or months later God often brings some key point back to mind. My friend, Robin, also went with us, and I know that the Lord really spoke to her about some things that she's been dealing with lately. I also believe that He was preparing her for an event that has come into her life this week. One of her good friends lost a child very unexpectedly, and I know that God will use what Robin learned at Deeper Still to help her be a support for her friend as she walks through this wilderness. Praise the Lord that Robin got that last minute ticket!

I went into the conference so excited about hearing all of the speakers again, and all of their messages were so timely and powerful. My favorite one, though, was Priscilla Shirer's message on Fri. night. She talked about the wilderness that we all walk through in our lives and how God meets us there and speaks to us, often at our lowest points. She based this message on the story of the Israelites' journey out of Egypt, through the wilderness to Cana. God asked them to trust and follow Him, and He promised to speak to them and allow them to see Him. He led them on a route to Cana that was certainly not the shortest, most efficient, or most pleasant. However, when they were right in the middle of their journey, at the furthest point from the Promised Land, He met them at Mt. Sinai. Although they had been so excited to hear from God, when the time came to go up the mountain and meet with Him, they were afraid. They sent Moses to get the word for them.

Priscilla used this to teach us that when God wants to speak to us, it is so much more powerful if we seek Him for ourselves and allow Him to speak directly to us, not just through our pastor or through a writer or speaker. This is the part that spoke to me today.

Many of you know about our struggle with fertility (I plan to tell the whole story on here at some point, but that is for another day). We have wanted another child for years. We had one miscarriage before God gave us Perry, and we've had 3 since then, all very early in the pregnancies. I have long considered this our wilderness, and I have gone through a huge range of emotions related to this issue. Last summer, after 2 back-to-back miscarriages, I was angry with God and went through a time of really not understanding why this was happening. Actually, Beth Moore's message at the Deeper Still conference in Nashville last fall helped me begin to admit that anger and get over my "devastation with God," as Beth put it.

I have since then felt some peace with the situation, although I still pray that it will happen, and we still desperately want to be blessed with another child. So what I learned this weekend is that through my wilderness, I have waited for other people to bring me my word from the Lord. I have waited for God to speak to me through messages at church, at conferences, in books I read, and even through my friends. He has been faithful to do that, too! He is showing me now, though, that He wants to speak directly to me, He wants me to spend time with Him alone and to be still and listen to His voice, to get to know Him more through His Word.

Kay Arthur and Beth Moore really opened my eyes this weekend to how much there is to learn about scripture. Wow! Every word in that Book is deliberate, intentional, and has meaning for us. Beth broke down John 1:14 for us and explained the meaning of every phrase, as she helped us memorize it. We had fun learning hand motions to help us remember each part of the verse and its meaning, but I was blown away by how much we can learn through studying the individual words used in even the most familiar verses.

Anyway, back to what I've learned. This morning as I prayed and read the Bible, I began thinking about my own wilderness (the fertility thing). I started thinking that the Israelites had really no idea what the Promised Land was going to look like. They had to place their trust FULLY in God, to lead them to this place that He promised would be perfect for them. In our journey, we must do that as well. We don't know what our Promised Land will look like. It may be exactly what we envision -- 2 beautiful, healthy children -- 1 boy, 1 girl. It may be 5 children (Perry did tell me recently that he wanted me to have quadruplets -- YIKES!). Or it may be a Land where our desire for another child is gone, and we are completely at peace with our little family. We have no idea what His plan holds for us, what that Land will look like. We only know that He promises to take us there. He promises to bring us out of the wilderness.

So, I will CHOOSE to say, through this time, "Blessed be the Name of the Lord."

We sang that song on Sunday, and I actually sang the 1st verse alone. After what we'd learned, this "old" song, especially that verse, had such powerful meaning for me.

Blessed be Your name
In the land that is plentiful
Where your streams of abundance flow
Blessed be Your name
And blessed be Your name
When I'm found in the desert place
Though I walk through the wilderness
Blessed be Your name

I also love the part that says, "my heart will CHOOSE to say, Lord, blessed be your name."

That's it, y'all. It is a choice. When He gives and when He takes away, we have a choice -- to turn our backs or to trust that He is our holy, loving Father who will meet us in the wilderness and carry us through to the Promised Land.

I have lots more to say, but I will stop here for now and go get some stuff done.

My one little blessing is dying for some attention right now! He is not seeing the glory in the fact that I am on the computer and not reading his new baseball cards to Him.

Thank God for that little distraction. I am so grateful that we have him.