"You can make anything by writing."

-- C. S. Lewis

Friday, September 28, 2012

Raising Ryley

Someday when Ryley is an adult, I will compile all my blog posts for her, and she can read through her childhood from her mother’s perspective. She may not like everything I’ve shared over the years, but it is what it is, I suppose. ;-) Regardless, it will be my gift to her.

Hopefully, more than anything, she’ll get a glimpse of how crazy we are about her. Of course I’ve heard that love multiplies and a mother’s capacity to love increases with every child she has, and I’m sure that’s very true. But sometimes I feel like we have enough love for a whole family of children, and Ryley gets the brunt of it. She is the focal point, and I’m sure it’s a bit smothering to her at times. :-)


She’s certainly not nearly as cuddly as we would like her to be. I would love for her to sit down next to me on the couch, her nine-year-old gangly legs curled up under her as she leans in to my side, watching TV. But it’s just not going to happen.  She’s too busy doing her “Ryley thing,” whatever that means from day to day. She’s always been on the move.

Even before she was born, Ryan and I have played a silly little game called “Joy’s Baby/Ryan’s Baby,” wherein we have tried to identify which of us she takes after….


I’ve started keeping a list in my phone of words that Ryley mispronounces in everyday conversation because she has only ever read them in books. This week’s choices?

  • Cooperate (pronounced Coop-er-ate)
  • Determined (pronounced “DEE-ter-mind” with a long I in mind)
  • Resume (pronounced “Resoom” with a soft S)

The thing is, she is so stubborn that she rarely allows us to correct her pronunciations without a fight.

“Well, that’s how I’m going to pronounce it.”

That’s Ryan’s baby. In every way.


She sits there in our living room armchair, crisscross applesauce, playing the latest Taylor Swift song on her I-Pod, line by line, and writing down the words. Line. By. Line. Stop. Write. Play. Stop. Write. Play. Then when all the words are written down, she plays the song again and sings along with Taylor. Over and over and over again.

That’s Joy’s baby.


She plays the Laura Ingalls-era penny whistle my mom gave her to the beat of Morse Code because she saw a chart of it in one of her books. “What am I saying?” she asks, then delves into the beat via her whistle.

Toot. Toot. Tooooooooot. Toot. Tooooooooot.

That’s Ryan’s baby.


The other day Ryley showed me a paragraph she had written for school, and I noticed the words “its” and it’s” were each used within the paragraph, and they were used/punctuated correctly both times. Just to make sure it wasn’t a fluke, I pointed to the word “its” and asked why she didn’t include an apostrophe. Ryley calmly re-read the sentence, substituting the word “its” with the phrase “it is.” She then looked at me expectantly, as if she wanted me to draw my own conclusion for why there should be no apostrophe.

That’s Joy’s baby.


She has an obsession with the German language. Both Ryan and I took German in college, so we know enough to understand basic conversation, though we’re not fluent by any means. Ryley read a book this summer where a German character was introduced via the following conversation:

“Ist das Amerika?”

“Ja. Das ist Amerika. Wilkommen, Wilhelm. Wilkommen!”

Ryley’s impression of this conversation, read or recited to us probably 30-plus times this summer – the combo of her exaggerated accent and lilting voice – leaves us laughing every time.

A couple of nights ago, she used the German translation app on her I-Pod to help her write a note to me in German, asking me for permission for something. She clearly thinks I know more than I actually do. I don’t know why she thought it was better for the request to be made in German, except that she was trying to butter me up. And um, it worked. She got what she wanted.

Um, Joy’s baby. ;-)


She asked Ryan if she could download an app of a game involving the Periodic Table of the Elements.

No question. Definitely Ryan’s baby.


She names her stuffed animals, usernames, and passwords after favorite characters in books and movies. That is, I think, a little bit of both of us: She likes to name everything, like me, but she uses book characters, like Ryan.


I have been teaching Ryley piano for four and a half years, since she was four years old, before she could even really read. She’s got talent, she enjoys it, and it comes naturally to her, but we honestly haven’t progressed very far. The moment it gets a little too hard, she gets impatient with herself and loses her temper with me. I have threatened to send her to a new piano teacher probably five times in the last year. Then I back off because I don’t want her to hate it. I want her interest to lead us;  I didn’t start taking lessons until I was nine anyway.

But every year before my Christmas recital, she renews her desire to learn/practice in the interest of playing in the recital. She’s competitive, and she couldn’t stand for a recital to commence without her involvement.

The musicality? Joy’s baby.

The stubbornness? The impatience? The competitiveness, even? Ryan’s baby. :-)

The desire to perform? ALL HER.


All these little parts of her personality -- little bits of me, little bits of Ryan, and tons of bits that are all her very own – all combine to make our Ryley girl.

Between the quasi science projects going on at any given point in our kitchen or her bedroom floor,



the doll clothes she made with packing tape and scraps of material before she had a sewing machine, and the shoebox-turned mailbox sitting in the hallway outside her bedroom door, Ryley’s mind is always working, and life with her is always exciting. Her creativity knows no bounds.


She makes no apologies for her nerdiness; she comes by it honestly and naturally. She is 100 percent completely herself.

And we love her for it. :-)

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Welcome, Fall

Yesterday we decided to head into the mountains to see the changing of the aspens. The leaves haven’t really changed too much in Denver yet; usually we forget about the aspens until October, and by then it’s too late! So we were really proud of ourselves for thinking of it in September. :-)


Warning: It is so difficult to pick my favorite pics, so I am going to post a LOT of them. :-)




Beautiful Colorado. We feel so blessed to live here. Why don’t we go to the mountains more often???




The sky was really hazy in places. I’m not sure if there are still fires somewhere?


We had picked up these overalls at a thrift store a couple of months ago, and Ryley has refused to wear them. But we told her we absolutely required her to wear them on our autumn trek up into the mountains! Overalls are made for fall. And after a full day of wearing them, she loves them.







I think the photo above may be my favorite.


There were so many random people taking pictures in this grove of blazing aspens. There were probably 20 cars pulled over on the side of the road. I loved the sense of camaraderie among all of us…Denverites an hour from home, drinking in the beauty of God’s creation, and simply giddy with excitement that we had found such a gorgeous place. :-)




We kept driving and came across this lovely lake….



And then this little brook.




We drove routes where we had never been before, and we didn’t use a map. We just turned down random mountain roads to see where they would lead. We had a general idea of where to go, based on what we had heard, but we basically just followed signs and drove in a big loop, eventually finding our way back home. We played our favorite music playlists and did a lot of talking. It was so, so good. 

As Ryan said, we never go to the mountains and come home with regret. It was a delightful, beautiful, and refreshing first day of fall. :-)

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

“The World Stops for No One” (I’ll Fly Away)

Grief is a funny thing. I guess I always thought I was immune to the “stages,” so to speak. So today, when I broke down at work and complained to my co-worker Leahh that I don’t know why this week seems to be harder than last week, she said, “Well, last week you were in denial. Now it’s sinking in.”  And I knew she was right.

At the same time, it’s not like the world stops for this stuff. You always think it will, but it doesn’t really. We’ve been plugging along with work and school; Ryley, my brave girl, didn’t want to stay home; she wanted to keep her mind off of it. So I went  to work too, thinking that when Ryan got home from Florida, we might take some time off together. But he got home, and both of our workplaces were so busy, so we just kept going in. You know, it’s funny, but people still expect to get paid, and people still expect to eat and get roofs put on their houses. We even tried and planned to take a day off together yesterday, but Ryan’s employee’s daughter went into labor and had a baby, so he had to go in and work her shift at the last minute. So I decided I might as well go in to my work too.

Ryan’s dad died during a Broncos game. And when Ryan’s plane landed, and he called me, and we talked about his dad, gone only an hour, there wasn’t much else to say. We were so drained from 24 hours of trying to get him down there. And we were so far apart. So we talked about the game. And I thought, “Are we really doing this? Are we really talking about football just an hour and a half after his dad has died?”

But that’s how life is. That’s how the entire last 10 days have been. It just keeps moving. We have moments of intense sadness, followed by moments of complete normalcy. Then we feel guilty for continuing to function. But maybe we’re just underestimating the peace of God?

In my more emotional moments, I’m still trying to wrap my head around the fact that this is reality. Ryan has to go the rest of his life…the next 60 years or so…without his dad’s input, advice, communication, prayers, or love. He’s 34, and both of his parents are gone. There’s this chasm….we know that Ron still exists in a heavenly dimension, but there is a wall of separation where we can no longer contact him. It’s comforting to know that he could not care less about this side of the chasm…about this dimension…because he is completely overtaken in his heavenly joy. But on this side, for us, there is grief and pain. It’s such a thick ceiling between here and there.

Every time Ryan gets a text, my heart drops in anxiety. This summer of ups and downs has conditioned my mind into thinking the sound of a text message means bad news. So I still think, “Oh no…Your dad…What now?” Only to be followed with, “Oh, right, the worst has already happened.”

It’s hard to think about the last few months and realize that there would be no happy ending….that all of it was leading toward this sad conclusion. All of the updates from nurses and doctors…Ryan’s week down there sitting at his dad’s side….all of the get-well cards Ryley sent her grandpa in the hospital…all of the videos we sent him of her playing the piano…all of the texting to see if this would be a good time to try and FaceTime…the happy day a few weeks ago when we received a video of him saying hello to Ryan and Ryley. His voice had been long-awaited, and we all breathed a sigh of relief. He spoke! He seemed to know us! We all thought these were baby steps down the road of recovery, to a new life. A new lease on life. He still had a ways to go, but maybe now he would live another 10-25 years with his repaired heart.

What was the point of those three months? If he was going to die anyway, then why didn’t God take him back then and spare us all the ups and downs and confusion and frustration and exhaustion and draining? I know we won’t ever know the answer to that…at least not in this “dimension.” But we do wonder what the good in it was.

“For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” – 1 Corinthians 13:12

Ryley received a butterfly garden for her birthday, so we have been dutifully growing caterpillars for the last three weeks.

Four caterpillars…


Then in their cocoons…


Ryan transferred the cocoons to the new habitat….


Then we waited. 


This stage was supposed to last 7-10 days. On the 10th day, the cocoons looked so small and shriveled, with absolutely no sign of life. They looked really dead and kind of crispy. Our house has been pretty cold at night, so I wondered if maybe we had inadvertently chilled them to death. Ryan and I prepared Ryley for the worst…We warned her that it was not likely that they would become butterflies. She understood.

“Let’s give them a few more days before we throw them out though,” she said.

Like we would have ever thrown them out on the 11th day!

It’s a good thing we didn’t…


Butterflies!!!! On the 11th day!





It’s interesting, the timing of this whole butterfly experiment, especially since Ryan’s dad had a Master’s degree in Biology.

To think that we had declared the caterpillars dead on Day 10. And such life and beauty came forth on Day 11.

I don’t know exactly how it all correlates with Ryan’s dad’s struggle and subsequent passing, but I feel like there’s a lesson in there somewhere. His sickness was the cocoon stage, preparing him to fly away? The process needed 11 days, not 10, so we should never give up on people even when they look small and shriveled? Wait…Are we the butterflies? ;-)

Maybe we’re just supposed to remember that God is in control and that, ultimately, it’s His process in the end.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” – 2 Corinthians 5:17

Monday, September 10, 2012

Letting Go


This is my favorite picture of Ryan’s mom and dad. They look young and relaxed. Happy. Apparently excited over their brand new circa-1976 television model. :-) It’s a sweet moment in time -- a split second of their lives that was captured on camera. I wonder what was in the envelope….was it a birthday card?Warranty information? The mystery of the envelope is part of what I like about this photo.  I also like the goofy, almost giddy, grin on Ryan’s dad’s face that he’s upgrading his home technology. He always liked the latest “gadget.”

I never had the pleasure of meeting Ryan’s mom, and it is hard for me to think about her without crying. She died of cancer when Ryan was 13. My heart breaks when I think of their little family…of a young, angry Ryan escaping the mourning household and running through the crusty Canadian snow to the park down the street so he could cry and yell and be alone in his grief. It makes me so sad.

I did get to meet Ryan’s dad, however. We were sophomores in high school when he became the new science  and computer teacher at our school. He was my teacher for three years. We dissected frogs in biology class, had fun with Bunsen burners, and learned our way around PCs from the early 1990s. He let us use the computers in the lab to create our own school newspaper. Always, always, Mr. Moore’s enthusiasm for science and technology lit up the room; he truly enjoyed what he did for a living, and for the first time, we were actually learning something.

At the same time, I was slowly falling in love with Mr. Moore’s quiet, good-looking, bookish, and witty son Ryan. :-)

I don’t remember when exactly I stopped calling him Mr. Moore and started calling him Ron, but I’m pretty sure it was sometime after Ryan and I got married. He was the best man in our wedding.  It was Ron who taught Ryan how to think outside of the box (Pooh the Winnie, and the Easter Pig). It was Ron who suggested “Ryley” be our daughter’s first name. It was Ron who suggested that maybe God’s plans are such for Ryley that she requires our full parenting attention at this time in her life and maybe that’s why we haven’t been able to have more kids as of yet. It was Ron who called me up within the last year to tell me how much my writing touched him and how he knew God had specific plans for Ryan and me as a writing team. He always, always, always believed in us. All of us.

And now, it’s hard to believe he’s gone. Though the last three months have been a roller coaster ride of emotion and anxiety and acceptance and pain, I think we all believed that the worst was behind us. Our prayers had been focusing more on the restoration of his mind because we all thought his heart was out of danger. He seemed to be making very small progress, but at least it was progress. After everything he had been through and survived, we didn’t actually think he would die anymore.

And then, as we were sitting in a movie theater on a date on a Saturday night after a wonderful family day, our phones started lighting up with text messages from Ryan’s sisters, begging us to please call them. And 24 hours later, while Ryan sat on a plane awaiting take-off on his connecting flight to Florida, we learned that his dad was gone.

All of the anguish of the last few months came spiraling to a head, and suddenly it was over. Peace.

It’s still hard to believe. I don’t know that it’s completely sunk in for any of us, the finality of it all. My heart breaks when I think that Ryan will never have another conversation with his father…that Ryley will never get to tell her grandpa all about the Mars Rover like she had planned…that he won’t get to watch her grow up or meet any of the other kids that we may have someday.

It’s hard to accept that yesterday was Ron’s last day on Earth…that his entire life ended there…that it was always meant to end there…that God knew it would end there.

“All the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be.” – Psalm 139:16

And yet, somehow, the fear of loss is almost worse than the loss itself, isn’t it? I felt almost release….relief… that he is no longer in pain. No longer agitated. No longer confused. Do I feel intense sadness? So much. Am I crying? Can’t stop. But also, completely unexplainably, there’s peace that passes all comprehension.

And I think, “This is it. This is the moment I have been dreading for years. The worst has happened, and we’re still here. We’re functioning somehow.”

We don’t have to mourn as those who have no hope.  We rejoice that we will see both of his parents again one day.

Thank You, Jesus.



Ryley’s coping mechanism is sewing, apparently. She received the machine as a gift from Justin and Aly for her birthday, and my aunt Coleen has been teaching her use it.

After Ryan held her on Sunday and she cried about Grandpa’s impending passing, she pulled out her sewing machine and started to make things.

Here is the welcome home gift she’s made for her daddy…


I’m sure he will cherish it forever. :-)

Please pray for continued peace for Ryan, Ron’s beloved wife (of 10 years) Linda, and Ryan’s siblings Gwen, Rhonda, Derrick, and Teresa.

God’s grace is indeed sufficient.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Keeping a Quiet Heart

Ryley started 4th grade this past week:



And would you believe it? We’ve been on time every. single. day. We’re starting the year off right.We actually have breakfast at the table (rather than a pop-tart in the van), and we’ve even been finding time to blow-dry her hair rather than air-dry. I’m trying to be a real mom, apparently. :-)

The week before school started, Ryley hung out at my work, since her daycare lady had started a new job:


She pretty much read the entire time. Something like 900 pages in four days. So now, during the school year, part of her homework is to read for 15 minutes every night. She likes to use that as an excuse when she should be doing other homework, like math:

Ryan: “Ryley, it’s time to do your homework.”

Ryley: “I am doing my homework. I’m reading.”

Ryan: “Ryley, you read enough this summer to cover your daily ‘15 minutes of reading’ all the way through 4th grade and 5th grade. Do your real homework please.”

Of course, we let her read for 15 minutes. The problem is when the reading turns into one or two hours, and the math still isn’t done. :-)



Fourth grade seems good so far. Ryley has expressed some concern that she feels like she annoys her teachers with her questions. She said that they kind of sigh when they answer, and sometimes they act like it was a stupid question. I would like to be mad at her teachers for making her feel that way, but the thing is, I know my daughter, and I know first-hand that her inquisitiveness can be overbearing at times.

We don’t ever want her to think that asking questions is a bad thing. We love that she likes to learn. But we are encouraging her to think twice before asking…to decide first if the question is something she already knows or can easily figure out on her own.

“So I should ‘take it back a notch’?” she asked.

“Yes, that’s a good way to put it,” I answered.

She’s so different from Ryan and me in that way; neither of us are ones to speak up in a large group setting. We’d either ask after class or go research it later on our own. But as we have learned over the past nine years, Ryley is her own person. ;-)


“You aren’t voting for Mitt Romney, are you?” Ryley asked while watching Hulu on my laptop at my work.


“He’s raising taxes on the middle class!”

Then, oh so dramatically, she rewound the commercial and played it back for me with a look on her face that said, “Wait ’til you hear this.”

“We’ll talk about it later,” I whispered.

“But is it true? He’s raising taxes on the middle class?”

“You can’t believe everything they say on those commercials.  We will talk about it later.”

Later, when I had Ryan available as back-up, we did talk about it, and we explained the injustices of political campaigning.

“I think that should be against the law!” she said, indignantly.

“What? Raising taxes? I agree.” Ryan laughed.

“No. How can they tell lies about people on TV?” She was horrified. “It’s just not fair.”


Not to beat a dead horse, but I have experienced a lot of trouble with coping with my job this past week. Every morning I go in to the office bravely, with a good attitude, cheerful, etc. And then, little by little, the darkness begins creeping in, sucking the life from me, and in one quick moment (after receiving 37 condescending e-mails in the course of 45 minutes; I am not exaggerating), I snap with anger, and the day goes downhill fast, spiraling  out of control. There isn’t time in the day to get everything done (that’s why I’m working tomorrow, on Labor Day), and I don’t possess the physical or mental capacity to deal with the people, the personalities, the problems, or the pressures. I just don’t have it in me.

There are so many times that something happens, and I feel sick to my stomach at the thought that I have to deal with it…somehow, someway, I have to walk myself through this situation and take care of it. There’s no shoving it under the rug. There’s no walking away. There’s nobody else to shoulder the burden. It has to be dealt with, and I am the one who has to do it. I have to figure it out. This icky feeling happens three to four times each day.

All I want is a day where I don’t crumble into tears…where my emotions don’t get the better of me. I want to be solid and stable. I’m tired of being so vulnerable to every pressure; I’m tired of my mind being so raw with emotion.

I know it sounds like I’m whiny here, and I just want to say that I don’t really have the words or the freedom to fully express the details. :-)

So after an especially bad Tuesday, I discovered this at our grocery store:


Have you seen anything more beautiful? I put down “Moose Tracks” and “Extreme Moose Tracks” the moment I saw “Extreme Maximum Moose Tracks.” Mmmmm. I love whichever marketing team came up with that name. I think we could be friends.

The problem is that a carb overload is the last thing my body needs when I’m already under stress.

So, knowing that I needed to get my spiritual life in order, I turned to my Bible and also to a dusty little book on our bookshelf, much-loved with highlights from my college years: “Keep a Quiet Heart.”

“The secret is Christ in me, not me in a different set of circumstances.” – Elisabeth Elliott

Oh, how many times has it taken everything within me to keep my bottom planted in my office chair and not just, immaturely, get up and walk out. Yes, I do pray that God provides something else for me soon. But until He does, I need to continue to do my work as unto the Lord, to tap into His unexplainable peace to carry me through each day, and let His light shine through me into the darkness.

This song has become the song of my heart:

"Rescue" by Desperation Band

I play it on a quiet loop in my office, throughout the day. Yes, my co-workers do get tired of my worship music; but I kind of don’t care anymore. It makes all the difference for me. God inhabits the praises of His people, and I’ve learned that worship music creates an atmosphere where God is present--with me all day long.

Wednesday through Friday went much better. I had the prayers of Ryan and my parents sustaining me, and God ordered my steps throughout each day. Every task I completed seemed to open right into the next task; I felt like I glided through the day, and even when crap happened, I somehow remained calm and peaceful. My heart was quiet in the midst of chaos.

The secret is Christ in me.

Thank You, Jesus.

I struggle with fear of the future. Sure, God was good last week, and I got through it. But I feel sick when I think that there will be hard issues this week and next week and the week after that that I will have to deal with. Even with God’s help, I will still have to walk through it. The chaos will still be there.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me.

Such powerful words for me right now. It’s amazing that you can read/hear/memorize a scripture, and then one day it just applies to your life, and you get it.


Here are my Broncos fans a couple of weeks ago, before a pre-season game. I’ve chosen to stay home during the first few games to get some freelance writing done. Plus, Ryley likes being with her daddy. :-)


I’ve actually been daydreaming about snow days recently…of the chilly days ahead where we can finally make the soup again and build fires in the fireplace. We can boil cinnamon sticks on the stove and light the new fall candles I bought at IKEA.

Temps were in the 90s last week, but we’re looking at 80s in the coming days. Autumn is slowly descending upon us, at last.

Happy Labor Day!