"You can make anything by writing."

-- C. S. Lewis


Friday, June 25, 2010

The Summer of Books and Bikes (Also, Ryley Comes to Jesus)

I think that someday, when Ryley is grown, we will refer to this summer with great fondness -- "The Summer That Ryley Became a Bookworm."

She is literally devouring chapter books. She reads while we drive. She reads while she walks from one place to another in our house. She reads while curled up in a chair under a cozy blanket. She reads by light of the nightlight long after she should have been asleep. She reads "The Boxcar Children." She reads "Junie B. Jones." She reads about Helen Keller and Flat Stanley. She averages a chapter book a day. All I know is that it was a big deal in the spring when she finished her first chapter book, and within weeks, her love and ability for reading has just exploded. She finished the Borders bookstore summer reading program already and is blasting through the library's. She has discovered the freedom that reading gives....the ability to travel to other places, meet new people, and ultimately expand her world. As bookworms ourselves, it is so exciting to see our little girl recognize the power that comes with reading!



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We will also refer to this summer as "The Summer We Started Riding Bikes." Ryan got a bike for Father's Day, and Ryley's Mammaw and Pappaw witnessed her need for a bigger size and bought her a new bike for her 7th birthday, one whole month early!!!



We live five houses down from a wonderful park, so we have a new evening routine....I walk Juliet around the park while Ryan and Ryley try to lap me on their bikes.



Juliet gets so excited when they pass by!!!



We met up at the McDonalds on the corner one night and had ice cream on their patio.



It has been so much fun, and it's been good for all of us!!!

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Ryley had Vacation Bible School this week, and something extremely special happened!

On Wednesday night, VBS had its BBQ and closing "family service," and they gave an altar call at the end. They asked if there was anybody who maybe used to be close to Jesus but now feels far away from Him. Suddenly I felt Ryley shaking with sobs next to me. I put my arm around her, and she leaned in and whispered amidst sobs: "I don't know if Jesus is in my heart!" "Well, do you want to ask Him to come in?" I whispered back. She nodded and sobbed, "But I don't know how!" The pastor was leading everyone in the salvation prayer, so we said it too, but she was crying so hard that I knew they were just words to her and that we needed to have a deeper discussion later.

Ryley had asked Jesus to come into her heart when she was three years old, and for a three-year-old, she understood as best as she could. We have raised her to know the Word, and she loves Jesus with her whole heart. She always has. But she doesn't remember the time she invited Him in to stay.

But how wonderful and exciting for her to make her own commitment....to be urged by the Holy Spirit and brought to tears by her need to be close to Jesus!

On the way home, Ryley rode with Ryan (we had driven separately), and Ryley brought it up again.

"Are you sure you don't want to wait until we're home with Mommy?" Ryan asked.

But Ryley was insistent that they not wait.

So right there in our Hyundai Sonata on I-25, Ryley came to Jesus.

And she said she feels so much better. She told me tonight that she can't wipe the smile off of her face! I told her the angels are rejoicing and that she will always remember the moment she gave her life to Christ.

This is "The Summer That Ryley Came to Jesus."

Monday, June 21, 2010

Richness

When you work in the roofing industry like I do, you meet a lot of interesting people. Last summer, in the midst of CATASTROPHE 2009, my company worked alongside "stormchasers," which is just another word for "gypsies." That's an entirely different blog post in and of itself. Through the months, my co-workers and I developed an inside joke about these people....Whenever it hailed, we would sarcastically step outside into the storm with our arms outstretched, lifting our faces to the falling hailstones, laughing giddily, and shouting, "WE'RE GONNA BE RICH!" It's called the Hail Dance.

This year, we are still developing sarcastic measures through which to cope with the stress of CAT 2010. Every day at 4 p.m. we e-mail each other our nominations for the company "quote of the day." We have to have a sense of humor, right? We are also in our seventh week of our therapeutic Thursday Book Club, through which we endeavor to become less sarcastic and more purposeful in our tasks.

But this last weekend, I wondered for the first time if I was beginning to morph into a stormchaser of sorts. I was at my grandma's house in Nebraska, and my grandma, my mom, Ryley, and I (four generations of girls!) were putting together a puzzle and watching a movie around 10 p.m. Suddenly, we heard a loud thump on the roof. Then we heard another. We raced to the windows and, though I've been dealing with the aftermath of such things for several years, I saw this for the first time with my own eyes:





Hail, literally the size of baseballs.



The thing is? It kinda made me a little giddy. It sounded like baseballs hitting the ground at high speeds. Thud. Thud. CRACK. Roooolllllllll down the roof. Ding (as it hits the gutter). Thud.



It was impressive, nonetheless. :-)

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Earlier in the evening, Ryley and Mammaw had enjoyed a bike ride within view of the Scottsbluff Monument, and we all had a relaxing chat on the patio.





After her week with her Honey and Mammaw, I brought my little girl home with rosier cheeks, brighter eyes, approximately 32 new freckles, and a healthier, happier demeanor. She read seven chapter books, ate lots of fresh fruit, devoured three enchiladas at Taco Town, spent countless hours in the peaceful outdoors, and was loved on (dare I say) constantly.



I guess that's just what "The Good Life" of Nebraska does to her.

It's always done it to me, too.

Hail dance or no hail dance, I think we're already rich. :-)

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Thoughts on Carving the Life We Want...

The house is eerily quiet this evening. Ryley is spending a week with my mom and grandma in Nebraska, and Ryan is at work. I don't really know what to do with myself. I can't remember what I used to do to fill my time in the years before the pitter-patter of Ryley-feet filled our lives. Juliet is away too, being boarded with our vet while we spent a couple of nights in Nebraska this weekend.

So it really is just me, my cup of hot chocolate, and the mother robin, spending a lovely and restful, rainy evening on the patio. Thunder is rolling gently, and the raindrops are drummming softly on the patio roof. Except for being a tad lonely, I love it! :-)



Last weekend, Ryley and I flew to Minnesota to celebrate my cousin Cora's high school graduation.





I just love Minneapolis, and I love my family, so it was all very, very good. :-)

My cousin Aaron is in the white shirt playing the bass guitar at Cora's graduation party (make sure you turn the music off at the bottom of the page before you play the video clip!).



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Cora and Ryley at Cora's party...Ryley just adores her.



It rained most of the weekend. I loved it! And I love all their little cottages and gardens too!!!



Three sisters: my aunts Coleen and Gail with my mom!



Cora and her friend Maxine sang for us!



Then we went to the Mall of America! It is just so much fun!











All the girls!



We went for a drive through my aunt and uncle's neighborhood....I love all these older neighborhoods with vines growing up the walls and cute little lawns and gardens. I took lots of pictures so I could show Ryan exactly what kind of home I want someday! He and I have the same tastes, so I knew he would agree!







Fun with sidewalk chalk!













Back at the mall: Lego Land! Since this visit, Ryley has a revitalized interest in legos!







It was a great trip. Though I've been up to their house before, this time we were able to see them with their friends and really witness this happy life they've carved for themselves. I want that for Ryley. I want to live in an established neighborhood where Ryley can safely walk one block to her best friend's house, where they just play the guitar and sing all the time. I want to have a sense of community. I want to have block parties. Those types of things are lacking from our current living situation. People on our street are just struggling to get through life; nobody has the "time" or "energy" to think beyond their own property. But I don't want it to be that way. I want to be warmer than I am. The weekend was very introspective for me, as I realized what I really want for our family.

I am also so proud of Cora (graduating with multiple honors!). Not many kids in Denver are as driven and education-minded as Cora and her friends are. Her group of friends is talented and intelligent; they've grown up together, and their parents all know one other. Ryan and I had that, too; I just don't know where to find that same thing for Ryley! I was amazed at the quality of their school music program; I am picky about that kind of thing, and it was pretty impressive. :-) I know God has Ryley in His hands and that He directs our steps. At least I now know what I kind of want her life to look like. :-)

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In other fun news, Ryley learned how to ride a bike last week! She is so excited!

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We miss her already. She called just a little bit ago, very tired from a fun-filled day and very tearful that she wishes her Mommy and Daddy were there! :-( It's good for all of us, and Ryan and I both have a lot going on this week. But we are still going to miss our girl.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

And Suddenly We Have a 2nd Grader.

Just like that, Ryley's in 2nd grade. It's scary because 2nd grade is the first year of school that I actually remember clearly. Our baby is suddenly more than a baby -- she has strong opinions and makes good suggestions. She's becoming less and less "baby" and more and more "person" every single day.

We wrapped up 1st grade with a flurry of activities. Ryley's class had an awards ceremony on Thursday, in which she was given an award of courage. That has indeed been the theme of the year (situation explained below)!





Here are Ryley and her wonderful teachers Ms. Major and Ms. McLean.



It was "crazy scarf day" in case you wondered. :-)



Ryan accompanied the class to Field Day on Friday. He's such a good daddy!







All year long, Ryley has struggled with a particular girl in her class that we'll call "Sally." This girl has ended up being a real bully in every sense of the word. The mean things she does to Ryley (and to other kids) are completely random and senseless. The ironic thing? Last summer, I had made it a matter of fervent prayer that Sally would be in Ryley's class. She and her family attend our church, and I had thought it would be nice for them to get to know each other better since (I assumed) we are all believers. Boy was I wrong!! Ryley may have grown in her character because of her dealings with Sally, but I think we all wish they hadn't been in the same class. This time around, I am praying that God directs the placement of each student, according to His infinite wisdom. :-)

This whole situation with Sally has been rough on Ryley because we have told her she is not allowed to be near her. This makes children's church difficult and uncomfortable for Ryley because she has to consciously sit somewhere else, and if Sally follows her, she has to move, which I think is awkward for her. So this past Sunday, Sally was being really sweet to Ryley as we were entering the church building, and Ryley whispered to me and asked if she could try sitting next to Sally. I agreed. Big mistake!!! Sally hid Ryley's participation ticket so she couldn't get candy at the end of the service and even hit her at one point. Oh, the malice!! My heart breaks when I picture Ryley searching her seat for her ticket while Sally tells her that she hid it because she didn't think Ryley deserved it. When Ryley told me about it later, I could hear the utter confusion in her voice...Why, Sally? Sally also told Ryley that she wouldn't be attending the same school in the fall, to which Ryley replied, "Good!" I was proud of Ryley's response!!

Anyhow, in celebration of the long weekend, we decided to do a Shrek Marathon. We watched "Shrek 2" on Saturday and "Shrek the Third" on Sunday, culminating in our 3-D theater experience of "Shrek 4-Ever After" yesterday. So fun! This sign and set-up was all Ryley's idea and doing!!!



Today was the first day of summer break, and Ryley spent it like this:



She camped out under my credenza at work, watching movies and writing in her diary and creating her birthday party plan.



She actually seemed pretty content. Unfortunately, this will not work out all summer long. I have actual work to get done! Not to mention, Ryley deserves to have a summer not cooped up in my office!!!

So let me tell you what God did.

We have had difficulty finding a place for Ryley this summer, and as other working moms know, it can be stressful to figure out the summer months. Though we love her school, we have been increasingly unhappy with the leadership of her school's after-care program; they showed a PG-13 movie, don't really supervise the playground, etc. We really didn't want her under their influence for the entire summer, and if possible, we prefer a Christian environment. So I asked God to show us what to do, and I felt Him answer that He would take care of it.

So I called the retired home daycare lady we used last summer (it was my understanding that she retired last fall), and it turned out that she was planning on doing just one more summer of daycare before retiring for good! We were so excited to hear she was still available. Then, in mid-May, her husband was in a horrible accident, and she is now in Louisiana at his bedside indefinitely.

Back to square one. I was going to call Ryley's old preschool to inquire about their elementary-age summer program when I found out that the entire preschool was closing at the end of May. I then e-mailed the lady that used to run it, just to see if she had any suggestions, but I've never heard back.

We've been completely stumped, and I prayed again, "Lord, please show us what to do!" He gave me peace and said again, "I've got it under control." But that's hard to believe sometimes. :-) Then, yesterday, God brought to my remembrance that my friend Sarah teaches at a small Christian school not even two miles from our house. I wondered if they offered a summer program, so I called her, and it just so happens that they do! I called them this morning, and we visited them this afternoon. It's cute and fun...Bible-based, cheaper than her school's shoddily-run program, and very friendly. Ryley skipped to the car as we left! I could tell that she felt safe.

So hooray! Ryley has a place to go!

In the meantime, she and I enjoyed a fantastic day in my office and at lunch together.




My 2nd grader is excellent company. :-)