Tuesday, March 31, 2009

A neglected fish

Ann-Marie left this note for us this afternoon. I think she thinks the Beta Fish is neglected. I think she's right.

Translation: "Wednesdays and Tuesdays and Sundays feed the fish. Please do not move."

Monday, March 30, 2009

Weekend Getaway

This weekend we headed over to Maryland to our wonderful family friends' house to celebrate their second child's 5th birthday. It was a welcome relief to get away and relax. We've had a month of Darrell's new office opening in Beaver and the start of me teaching fitness classes at the new gym in town. This weekend was the only open weekend until June as we now will transition into soccer season with Saturday games. So instead of working on home projects we decided it would best suite our sanity to head east. Here are the highlights:

Above, Ann-Marie with her best friend, Bekah, searching the silt for fossils. Below, Darrell and Jessica help Elijah and Alec find their fossils.
Below: pizza delivery....nothing beats homemade!

Above: proud mom delivers excellent homemade and hand decorated volcano cake to pleased new five year old.
And to end, this is what happens at the end of the party. Two pooped preschoolers! Thanks for the wonderful weekend!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Pondering Treasures

Today at MOPS, we held our "trash to treasures" meeting. What's this? It's where you get to bring in your trash (clothes your children have outgrown, toys, baby equipment, etc.) and collect "treasures" from others trash. I got to off load some "trash" (in really good shape I should say) but didn't come away with many treasures as my kids are out of the infant/toddler stage (which is what much of the "trash" was for).

Our MOPS mentor then did a devotional that really touched my heart and got me thinking (which always turns into a blog!) She based her devotional on the Bible verse Matthew 6:19-20
19"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal."
So what are our treasures? If you listen to the news, you would think it was material things or things money can buy....clothes, jewelry, houses, furniture, etc. But these are not treasures we can take to heaven. So what should we invest our time and energy in? RELATIONSHIPS! Especially the ones God has blessed us with.....our family.

At that moment I realized that when my mom was the age I am now, she had almost exactly one year of life on earth left. I thought, "How would she have lived differently that last year if she would have heard this devotional?" "How should I live differently this year?" "What should I invest my time and energy in this year?"

So my challenge to you is this: I know that it is really easy to worry about money and the economy right now, especially if you are facing job loss or other anxiety-provoking issues related to the current economy. But please remember that whatever you're holding onto so tightly might not be so important in the big picture. Think about the treasures you can take with you after you die.....time spent with your husband and children, connecting with friends, investing in making a difference in someone else's life, a word of encouragement, a helping hand.....these are treasures that can't be kept in any treasury, but will stay with you through eternity.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Very Thankful....

We have been fortunate to have very healthy children. We have dealt with seasonal allergies, one broken leg, lots of ear infections, and normal childhood illnesses. I do realize how blessed we are. Last evening made me even more thankful for our healthy children and the medical care we have very close to home.

On Thursday, Darrell took Alec into the dr. because we knew he had a double ear infection. He's been battling it for a month now, and we knew he needed stronger medicine. Ann-Marie, our ear infection professional, had broken us into the signs...so we're seasoned now. However, the doctor also gave Alec steroids for a wheeze in his cough that we were unaware of. He has been coughing for so long, I think we had become deaf to it.

Yesterday morning, Alec had his normal cough...but when he woke up from nap (early) he went into several coughing fits that made me nervous. When Darrell came home, I called the doctor's office and the person who answered the phone told me to take him in immediately. So we were sent to the Beaver Pediatric office, who has extended hours. While we were in their waiting room, the nurse heard him coughing, came out to the waiting room and checked his blood/oxygen level and we were immediately seen. As the doctor was checking Alec, Alec went into an even worse coughing fit and I have never seen medical professionals at a clinic move so fast. He was immediately put on a nebulizer. After one treatment, they checked him again and we stayed for a second treatment. Once things calmed down, the doctor explained to me that Alec's blood/oxygen level should be in the upper 90s and his was 92. The doctor said he was basically "falling off a cliff."

Now for those of you who deal with this on a regular basis, this episode might not have been as scary for you. This was our first time...I have never had to use a nebulizer before. So we are very thankful for lots of things today, but especially for the timing of Alec's coughing fit (if we would have been home, we would have called an ambulance) and for the attentiveness of all the medical staff that saw us (and heard us over the phone) last evening. A side note: I'm learning that these treatments really make your child act WIERD.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Our Artist-in-Residence

With the onset of warmer weather, the outdoor easel was set up on our deck. Our deck is home to a sandbox, an easel, and some play kitchen toys. No deck furniture to speak of....that will come later. Here are some pictures of our artist-in-residence. Ann-Marie does some sort of art every day. She loves her easel and paints, but has taken to paper plates, using my tea boxes to make horse troughs, coloring, paper bag puppets, clay and lots of projects in process with recyclable materials. She has a very creative personality, so it is fun to provide her with some open-ended materials and see what she comes up with. She rarely asks for any ideas or for any help, so most of her artwork is hers alone. I love seeing this side of her come out!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Girls' night out

Ann-Marie and I had a special treat this weekend. My sister-in-law, Karen, gave us their tickets to see "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" at the Benedum Center in Pittsburgh on Saturday night. What a fabulous time we had! I had never been to the Benedum and was impressed when I read about the history behind it. You can read about it here: http://www.pgharts.org/venues/benedum.aspx. Ann-Marie kept looking at the ceiling and saying how pretty it was. I cannot say enough good things about the musical....and our seats were front and center which helped. So thank you, Karen! What a wonderful memory you gave us.....we'll be singing those songs for a long time to come!

Darrell and Evan also got a boys' night out on Friday night. They attended our church's annual "Wild Game Dinner." Evan loved it as he got to eat MEAT, MEAT, and more MEAT. The weather was also fantastic this weekend, so we snuck a park trip in on Sunday afternoon.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Meals on Wheels

"Meals on Wheels" has been a part of my life for the last couple of years, so I was sad to have to give it up this year due to the change in our schedule. My first personal experience with Meals on Wheels was when my Grandpa and Grandma moved into an "not-really-assisted" assisted living apartment. Grandpa couldn't see (due to macular degeneration) and Grandma couldn't walk without a walker, so taking care of a house got to be too difficult for them. They were fiercely independent, though, and refused any assistance that my father set up for them; often cancelling it behind my dad's back. It was only after Grandma was put back into a nursing home, that Grandpa agreed to having Meals on Wheels come in. He used to gripe and gripe about it, but he was always waiting at the door at 10:30 a.m. every day looking out for his "lady." And boy, would you hear about it if she was late!

When we moved to Ellwood City, PA and were living with Darrell's dad, I was trying to get to know people and find things to do in the community. I saw an article in the local paper about how Meals on Wheels needed volunteers and I thought that was something I could do with small children. The commitment was only an hour every three weeks and they always set me up with someone to ride along, since Alec and Ann-Marie were with me. I soon began to look forward to my time on Meals on Wheels.....the people who rode along with me (always retirees) who had rich stories about the community, the elderly shut-ins who looked forward to seeing the little girl who looked like "Shirley Temple" and the cute baby, and finding my way around my adopted community. We continued through the summer and Evan especially looked forward to delivering the meals when school was out. It became our way of giving back. In the Fall of 2007, we bought our house in Patterson and I was able to continue Meals on Wheels until Ann-Marie started kindergarten in September 2008. I sadly stopped doing Meals on Wheels because I couldn't make it to the bus stop in time to pick up Ann-Marie. I thought my season was over.

This morning, I received a call from the Meals on Wheels in Beaver Falls (College Hill). It seems that western PA is a small area. One of my former riders had given this lady my name if they needed help. So, it seems, I'm back on.....closer to home so I'll have time to do my route before picking up Ann-Marie. I'm excited.....new community to learn, new riders to enrich my life, and most importantly, new elderly who need the meals, a big smile, and the joy of seeing kids giving back.

It is important for our family to teach our children that they are a part of the community they live in, to take care of each other, and to always find ways to serve others. Meals on Wheels has given our family this opportunity. So I urge you, if you have the heart, the time, and even young children at home....Meals on Wheels is a ministry you can participate in.


Psalm 71:9 Do not cast me away when I am old; Do not forsake me when my strength is gone.

Leviticus 19:32 "Rise in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God. I am the Lord."

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Why don't you blog it?

On Friday, I walked into Ann-Marie's room and couldn't contain my comment on how messy her room is. Without missing a beat, she replied, "Well, why don't you blog it?"

Wasn't she just three years old yesterday?

On that note, we had Saturday appointments for both boys for their yearly dr. checkups. It made me realize two things: how thankful I am for healthy children and how fast they are growing up. Evan is 61 lbs. and 49 inches tall at eight years old, which isn't huge for his age but he's our oldest, which really hits home how big he is getting.

So last night after an early dinner, Darrell bathed the kids and had them put their pajamas on to go check out Bruester's and their free ice cream deal (you had to wear your p.j.'s to get the free ice cream.) I met them there as I was out running some errands. We took them home with their (HUGE) scoop of free ice cream and watched as a family, "The Wizard of Oz." It was the kids' first time watching that movie. What a fun time we had sharing one of our favorite childhood movies with the kids. I highly recommend it. And thanks to the local library, a dollar DVD rental made our lovely evening extremely affordable!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

For a dear friend.....

Today, a very close friend is struggling with the anniversary of a loss. This blog is for her.....but also for anyone else out there that also needs it.

Grief is a funny thing. The intensity lessens, but it never seems to go completely away. Professionals and books will tell you that there is a neat series of emotions that you will go through, and then everything will be alright. In my personal opinion, it is more like jagged mountains you hike through; just when you thought you reached the highest peak, there's another one to climb. You have to navigate rocks and bushes in your path and sometimes you hit a level path for a time. A level path can be quite deceiving, slowly ascending until you realize you're heading up again. I think that's the best way I can describe grief, it seems to sneak up on you when you think you're doing well, but if you honestly look back, it's been building for a time.

When you lose someone very close to you, you have to learn how to deal with the way grief works in your life. Immediately after your loved one has died, it looks quite different depending on the situation. I have been through both - the quick, unexpected death and the "knew it was coming" death. But after the immediacy has worn off, the long-term grief comes. This grief doesn't have a timeline, but lives as a part of the fabric of your life. If you learn the best ways to cope with it, it doesn't have to consume you but just becomes a part of you. You can use it for good - keeping memories of the loved one alive for yourself and future generations, lending a sympathetic ear to someone just starting the grief journey, and evaluation of your life. Here are some ways I've found helps me when grief "sneaks" up on me:

  1. Acknowledge. Sometimes you have to put a name to your feelings in order to move on. It only prolongs the process if you deny that you are grieving....it doesn't matter if it's been 2 years or 20 years.
  2. Pray. Give it to God. He knows what you're feeling and he wants to give you peace. It may not happen right away because sometimes you have to learn something about yourself in the process, but you need to pray right away and often.
  3. Talk to someone. Maybe it is someone who has lost a loved one and understands. Maybe it's a relative or friend you trust with your feelings. God has given us these people for this purpose.
  4. Use a resource. My favorite I go back to time and time again is "Motherless Daughters" by Hope Edelman. I also have "Letters from Motherless Daughters" by the same author. I find it extremely comforting to know I am not the only person dealing with these feelings.
  5. Give yourself a break. You may have to duck out of your routine for a day or two. If you have young children at home, reach out to your spouse, a relative, or a friend for a break.
  6. Do something you love. Go for a drive. Look through a scrapbook. Get together with a friend for coffee. Go for a run or walk. Be kind to yourself. It is easy to beat yourself up...."I should be over this by now!" This will only prolong the grief, which could easily lead into depression.
If you've been through a loss, I'd love to hear how you handle grief in your life. Leave a note on this blog....it may very well help someone else.