Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Storm Cleanup

We made the local paper!  The other day while my mom had the girls, Aiden and I were outside enjoying the day, picking up shingles.  The paper's photographer was going around taking pictures of people cleaning up after the storm.  I guess she thought Aiden was pretty cute because we made it to the front page.  :)  When she asked Aiden his name he said Aiden! and when she asked how old he is, he whipped out a hand and said Five!

Its a little embarrassing that our roof is so bad that shingles are flying off in large quantities, but the good news is I was not wearing a ponytail AND I had make-up on....that doesn't happen everyday around here, but how nice that it was on a day that a photographer came to visit.  Not that anyone cares, but I do. :)

I thought I'd also leave the stats from yesterday on power outages in our area.  Those percentages are crazy!  Shaun hooked up a power cord from his workshop to our neighbors house so they can run their refrigerator, etc and he loaned out the generator to some friends, but that's about all we can do to ease our conscience of having never lost power.  I hope to never live in a place that is not connected to city me that makes all the difference when the power goes out.

Here are some pictures I took within a block of our house on Sunday night.  This morning when I took the dog out everything looked the same.

The LORD is slow to anger and great in power, And will not at all acquit the wicked.The LORD has His way In the whirlwind and in the storm, And the clouds are the dust of His feet.
Nahum 1:3

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Countdown to School

School starts in just one week and for the first time we are sending a child out into the world.  I have so many emotions and I know I'm not the first mom to walk through this.  "Out there" seems so big and scary and though we treat her like a big girl here at home, she actually is only six.  Can that possibly be old enough for her to be ok without me for six hours and fifteen minutes a day?

We've spent the summer weaning her off of naps and instead she lays down with books and rests.  She's ready, age-wise and ability-wise, its just me who is not quite ready to let her go.

Shaun reminds me constantly that we are raising adults.  Children who will all too soon grow up and will need to be participating, contributing members of society.  So often, parents (me!) want their kids to stay young.  But really, they don't even belong to us.  Recognizing that God has a special plan, just for Avery is part of loving her.  I want her to be excited about growing up and finding the path God has already made for her.

We have had several meetings with the principal, we've talked with teachers and staff and we feel very at peace with sending her to St. Mary's.  Everyone has reasons for how and where their children are being taught and at this time, this is what works for us.  Their mission statement:

St. Mary - St Joseph School educates in an atmosphere of love and respect for “J.O.Y.” (Jesus, others, yourself). As a bi-parochial Catholic school, we challenge our students to develop their God-given talents and intellect. Through His Word and by our daily example, we nourish their spiritual growth. We are committed to providing students in grades pre-K through eight from W and the surrounding towns with a challenging academic program emphasizing Gospel values. We teach so that students will meet the future with a firm foundation of knowledge, skills and faith.  

Does that mean I'm totally ok with it?

I'm sad that she will have to experience mean kids in the world.  I'm sad that she will learn she is not 100% accepted and celebrated by everyone for who she is.  That the Rupunzel food containers she is so excited about might get her laughed at.  That someone other than her mom and dad and family will suddenly take a very important place in and have a direct influence on her life.

I wonder who her friends will be and am praying there is a special girl there who will make a perfect BFF.  At moments I start to panic a little, thinking my time with her is if my window of influence has closed.  Not true, of course, but I do wonder what kind of person she will be "out there".

Some things I will miss:
Going days and days without leaving the house
Being the one in charge of our family's schedule
Having my three kids with me all day
Feeling like I am able to protect Avery
The sound of Disney channel or PBS Kids in the morning over breakfast
Watching Avery and Amanda delightfully play together all day long
The luxury of going on vacation whenever we want to

Some things I'm looking forward to:
Watching Avery thrive at school...I know she's going to love it
Having more one-on-one time with Amanda
A built-in routine...there's always comfort to be found in that
Hearing how her first day went
Tucking love notes into her lunch bag
All the opportunities that will be opened up to her

The other night Avery and I went shopping to fulfill her school supply list.  We started with shoes and after trying on the sixth pair, I asked her, specifically, what she was thinking.  She said, They are all so...ordinary.  So I got down and explained, again, that she is going to a catholic and sparkles are not encouraged but everyone will look the same.  :)
Later, we grabbed some dinner at 9 pm and ate outside on a beautiful evening.  She's getting to be such good company.  I sure will miss her, yet I'm so happy for her and this new adventure she's going on.
Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.
Proverbs 22:6

Monday, August 29, 2011

That Girl

The other night while Shaun was watching the kids, Amanda took it upon herself to do a little dog grooming.  Doesn't he look pretty with his toes done?
 Not sure what this is...a crown?
 She did it in my bedroom so now I will also fondly think of four year old Amanda as I crawl into bed.
Then last night she brushed her teeth, unsupervised.  Shaun went in to check on her and found this scene.

Avery is looking over my shoulder right now, shaking her head.  When she saw the nail polish pictures she said (shaking her head) That girl is too much work.

Also, of the toothpaste she said, Yeah, that's really hard for me to squeeze out too.  Okay, its a brand new thing of toothpaste so maybe it was an accident in an effort to get it on the brush.  But what happened with the mirror?  I wash it once a week so its usually pretty clear.  Guess I'll be helping her in the bathroom tonight.
 being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ;
Philipians 1:6

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Project 365, Week 35

I'm scheduling this to post in the morning, because I'm not sure if we'll have power then or not.  We are waiting for Hurricane Irene to make an appearance...Shaun is responsible for five houses, so he had two full days of getting everything in order....getting the generator ready, making sure basement pumps are working, taking down deadish trees, taking bricks off our chimney that would blow off with a light breeze, removing window a/c's, etc, etc.

My porch flowers are in the house and none of our cars are parked under a tree.  Yeah, I think we are ready.  There is zero chance of flooding up on the hill where we are and being so far inland, but our thoughts are with those who are.  Its mind-boggling to think that NYC is being evacuated and the mass transit is shut down.  Crazy.  

I find it fascinating how far ahead they are able to track these storms...feels like we've known about it for nearly a week.  Well those of us (Shaun) who listen to or read the news once in a while.  

August 21
Cousin Trevor slept over and we went to the park.  It was before naptime and all Avery could do was sit, poor thing.  She's lost so much weight with loss of appetite and she didn't have an ounce to spare to begin with.
August 22
Aiden was given new garden tools and got right to work digging.

August 23
More time outside...trying to soak in these BEAUtiful days.
An airplane.
Shaun's last softball game.  Traditionally I get a team photo, but it didn't even cross my mind until I was putting this together.  They had a great season but didn't make it out of the second round of playoffs.  (sorry its a bad picture of you, Shaun...I only took one).
August 24
Went to visit this precious little guy who was born on the 23rd.  Oh, the sounds, the smells...just perfect in every way.  Can they prescribe anything for baby fever??
August 25
Daddy's woodpile is a great place to eat a popsicle (Trot-free zone).
Such a nut!  She lives life large and inspiring!
Love summer feet.  :)
Later in the day my heart was heavy for some friends whose husband and father suffered a heart attack (he's going to be ok).  Such a reminder of how precious and short life is and that we don't really call the shots.

August 26
This was my view from the top of the hill where I was standing, throwing the tennis ball to the dog.  Not too shabby!
I packed a picnic lunch and we went to a local state park, all of us together.  Such a treat!
This poor toad saw his life flash before his eyes.

August 27
Storm can see how bad the chimney is, especially compared to the one he already rebuilt.  After, we had a family brick-picking-up party.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

A Happy Heart

We had some fun with Photobooth the other hanging out with this crew!!

A happy heart is good medicine and a cheerful mind works healing, but a broken spirit dries up the bones.
Proverbs 17:22

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Why Mommy, Why?

The news is never on in our house, except for news of the latest unemployment report or price of a barrel of oil from Shaun's MSNBC.  So when we were visiting Shaun's grandfather and the evening news was on, it really caught the girls attention.  Riots in Britain, displaced families in Africa, on and on and on.

That night they had lots to pray about.  As I was laying on Amanda's bed snuggled up with her she began to pray...and Jesus, please help those people who didn't have any food or home...and then she stopped mid-sentence, looked at me and said, Did God make those people that don't have a home?  Why did He make them poor and without any food?

Wow, what do you say to that?  The obvious answer is Yes, God made all people, but I knew what she was really asking is why did God make those people only to suffer?

My thoughts immediately went to some pages out of a book I recently read.  SUCH a good book, one of those that I will keep handy to read back through every now and then.  One of those that's all marked up.
An excerpt from One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp:

All God makes is good.  Can it be that, that which seems to oppose the will of God actually is used of Him to accomplish the will of God?  That which seems evil only seems so because of perspective, the way the eyes see the shadows.  Above the clouds, light never stops shining.

But what perspective sees good in dead farm boys, good in  a little girl crushed under tires of a truck right in front of her mother's eyes, good in a brother-in-law who buries his first two sons in the space of nineteen months--and all the heinous crimes and all the weeping agony and all the scalding burn of this world?  The sun rolls across the wheat warm.  I lean against the windowsill and watch it.  I hear the echo, truth words whispering down time's cavern, words that Julian of Norwich heard:

See that I am God.  See that I am in everything.  See that I do everything.  See that I have never stopped ordering my works, nor ever shall, eternally.  See that I lead everything on to the conclusion I ordained for it before time began, by the same power, wisdom and love with which I made it.  How can anything be amiss?

Perspective--how we see.

And how should anything be amiss?  I can see her name on that stone, five letters of my little sister named "loved one", and I won't shield God from my anguish by claiming He's not involved in the ache of this world and Satan prowls but he's a lion on a leash and the God who governs all can be shouted at when I bruise, and I can cry and I can howl and He embraces the David-hearts who pound hard on His heart with their grief and I can moan deep that He did this--and He did.

I feel Him hold me--a flailing child tired in Father's arms.

And I can hear Him soothe soft, "Are your ways My ways, child?  Can you ear My manna, sustain on My mystery?  Can you believe that I tenderly, tirelessly work all for the best good of the whole world--because My flame of love for you can never, ever be quenched?"

Its just that the eyes are bad--my perspective.  "Your eye is a lamp that provides light for your body," Jesus said.  "When your eye is good, your whole body is filled with light.  But when your eye is bad, your whole body is filled with darkness.  And if the light you think you have is actually darkness, how deep that darkness is!"  (Matthew 6:22-23).  If Satan can keep my eyes from the Word, my eyesight is too poor to read light--to fill with light.  Bad eyes fill with darkness so heavy the soul aches because empty is never truly emplty; empty is only a full, deepening darkness.  So this is what it is to be.  Eve in the Garden, Satan's hiss tickling the ear, "Did God actually say...?"

No scripture glasses toread what God is trying to write through a prodigal child?  Scrawl my own qick editing on the half-finished story: failure.  Satan's tongue darts.

Not wearing a biblical lens to decipher the meaning of a doctor's ominous diagnosis?  Just read Satan's slippery interpretation: cheated.

Not using anything to bend the light of this world so I can read my own messy days?  Spray on another layer of graffiti: worthless.

So I have been ambushed.

Without God's Word as a lens, the world warps.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

One Apartment Down

The apartment is done, rented and occupied!!  Big huge Thank You, Jesus!  Even now, as I think about it, I cannot believe we made it.  

There are four units in this building and this particular one housed a single woman who has lived there since before we owned it, more than seventeen years ago.  She paid next to nothing in rent and asked for very little.  Shaun was always busy with other things so he didn't push it.  Well, she got an inheritance so in May she finally moved out.

I don't have any before photos, but imagine an apartment in an old house that hasn't had ANYthing done to it in more than two decades.  Bad!

Shaun overhauled the plumbing and electrical.  He put in insulation, all new windows, closed off some doorways, skim-coated lots of plaster, scraped, painted, tiled, re-finished the wood floors, gutted the kitchen and bathroom, new shower, sinks, toilet, appliances, cabinets.  I'm sure I'm missing lots, but those were the major things.

His goal was to have it done for August 1.  Since we live in a  college town, experience has taught him the best pool of tenants come looking around the time school is starting back up.  So he mapped out the project and started working 80 hours a week, which ramped up to nearly 100 for the last couple weeks.  Its hard to grasp how much time that is...essentially its seven days a week from very early (somewhere between 6-7am) until very late (usually about 10 pm).  He'd come home for 30 minutes for lunch and sometimes for a little bit before the kids went to bed.  Day after day after day.

That left me at home with the house and the kids (and the dog!), a job and a growing business. It was one of those times where you don't stop to think about it, you just get up each morning and determine to do that day to the best of your ability.  And that saying, If you want something done, ask a busy person is so true.  You just go and you do because you have to.

It was such a lonely time without Shaun but I knew complaining about it and dwelling on it would help no one.  Shaun didn't really complain either.  We just both knew we had a job that needed to get done.  It was really, really hard on both of us.  I'm so thankful for the little pieces of time that our families gave us...Shaun's brother Nathan put in lots of hours at the apartment and my dad did some too and family pitched in to help with babysitting when I had weddings and photo shoots and such.  That help came at such a desperate, low time for us and will never be forgotten.

One more apartment to do, though this one will be done at a slightly slower pace.  Then we'll get to work digging out of the $25,000 investment we've made between the two apartments.  Isn't is beautiful? One thing about Shaun is he doesn't do anything half way.

(Avery's shot)
The night he more or less finished up, he got home about 6:30.  We took the kids and the dog to the river, came home and ate dinner at the table, as a family and then he and I watched a movie.  It was the first time I'd sat in the TV room since May.  It was just an evening, but it felt like we'd had a week's vacation together.

So thankful we are through the worst part!  Everything is better when Shaun is around!

The LORD upholds all who fall, And raises up all who are bowed down.
Psalm 145:14

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Project 365, Week 34

We are loving this weather and getting what we can out of summer.  Hard to believe (and sad to think about) that in a little over a month we'll start up the woodstove and be cold for six straight months.  Why am I even saying that?  We are in August...lovely, wonderful, warm, summery August.

Here's our week in pictures...looking through them, I was surprised to see I made it in two...must be a record! :)

August 14
I shot my second wedding of the weekend in MA.  My brother, who is a Chaplain in the RI National Guard officiated.  So fun to work together!
August 15
Took a very sick Avery to the doctor and then the hospital to find out she has Mono.  She fell asleep sitting in this chair and then again on the exam table and was the sickest I've ever seen her.  No way to know where she got it, since symptoms appear one month after you "catch it".

I know many of you have been praying for her, and I thank you for that.  
 August 16
Amanda and Aiden have both been a little lost without Avery, especially Amanda really misses her 24/7 playmate and best friend.
 August 17
I went to an evening workshop which dealt quite a bit with photographing children.  Though its not an area I want to specialize in, I figured it wouldn't hurt.
 August 18
Amanda made cookies for one of her friends on Shaun's softball team.  She took great care in decorating them as pretty as she could.
 Aiden was helping my test out the light for a mini photo session I was doing.
 August 19
Our August family photo!  I thought it was very appropriate that it be at the apartment where Shaun has lived for the last three months.
August 20
Shaun gave me the idea of a beautiful new location for photo shoots.  We started at 8 AM and it was such a great morning!

Big day for Avery...she lost her very first tooth!!  She was sitting around the table with her cousins and siblings, laughing and eating a hard roll and...out it came.  The kids broke out in a spontaneous song of "Happy Birthday".