"I hold on to You for dear life, and you hold me steady as a post..." Psalm 63

Sunday, August 30, 2009

A new scholastic year...

It's been a busy weekend...

getting the shop moved to storage on Saturday,

and finishing up all the last minute school details.

But, we're ready...and a new year officially begins in 8 hours! I am NOT a morning person...so this presents a challenge to me, especially when Emma informed me she'd need an HOUR to get ready in the morning. Not happening, though...no one should need THAT much time to get ready for 7th grade! We compromised with 35 minutes....plenty of time, really. Nick prefers that I wake him 15 minutes before the bus comes...but that presents another problem since he takes 15 minute showers.

I'm really ready for tomorrow...ready for a routine and somewhat of an organized schedule...but it has been a really great summer. So full and rich...and at the same time, so packed with emotions of all kinds. We've had lots of firsts, lots of lasts, lots of new discoveries and some really great family times. It's been a great 3 months!

Nick in a Gabonese orphanage ...

A week at the beach...

Alot of laughing...

Tommorrow I take the annual "First Day of School" pics...but there will only be two. Missing that third one...but SO pleased with where he is, what he's doing, and the friends he's making.

Yes...it's been a good summer all around....

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Counting down...

I'm counting down the days til school starts....there are 5. Not because I can't wait to get rid of my kids, or that I look forward to the back to school paperwork, or that I relish getting back into homework....but because I realize that I have not had a couple of hours alone to think since our vacation. With all the changes that have been taking place around here I am feeling the need for stillness....for silence. I need to regroup and get things in order...not just in my home, but in me.
The summer has been so full for us. And it's all been SO good. Starting with our trip to Gabon, Africa...our vacation to the beach...packing Alex up for school (and the umpteen things that go along with that!)...and now packing up the entire Shop to put away in storage. They've all been major marks on our calendar, but they have sucked much of the life out of me. I need to restart my brain and my body.
I was reading scripture this morning...a familiar verse in Psalms about God wanting to give us the desires of our hearts....and I realized, as it pertains to both the shop AND much of my life I don't even KNOW what the desire of my heart is! I know that I want to walk in obedience to the LORD, that I want to raise children who love, respect, and honor Him with their lives....but as far as what I specifically want to DO with my life....I've lost focus, and I'm not even sure how to answer that.
So, I'm counting down the days til school because I'm planning to invite myself out to coffee and sit for an extended period of time...just because I can. I'm planning to drive to a quiet park with a book or my journal and just listen....just because I can. I'm planning to figure some things out that I just can't seem to keep my focus on with the kids around....just because I can.

I found this picture on a great blog...you can find it here:


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

what we've been up to this week....

We've had a busy week since we dropped Alex off at College on Thursday. I was not given much time to "grieve" his departure, since I had scheduled a two day sale at Lulu & Tutz. The weekend came and went without alot of breathing time. And, then, suddenly here it is a new week and there's not alot of down time on the horizon until after the kids head back to school next week. I'll probably look back and realize it was all the best timing...better to keep busy than allow myself too much time to think about Alex moving on.

Yesterday my mom and I spent hours at the shop. Whether we're ready or not, the packing has to be done, as we have to vacate the building by the end of the month. There is SO much in that shop!!! More than you can imagine would be in that one little room...even AFTER the sale! The packing is bittersweet. I have no idea what God's plan is for the shop after this week...I long to have uninterrupted hours to think, plan, and pray for some answers to the quandry. That won't happen this week...but in time. I trust there's a bigger picture I cannot see...the little tiny square of a corner I see makes no sense...but I believe it will one day. Til then...there is SO much to be done.

Boxes...ALOT of boxes..

Who knew so many boxes could fit in a FIT!?!

We took the day off of packing today so we could sneak to PBU for a suprise Birthday lunch with Alex. Unfortunately, his birthday came so soon after moving in...but being only an hour and a half away, we couldn't let the guy celebrate alone! Plus, he forgot his coffeemaker and his printer at home. I got a frantic text this morning about how much he needs coffee in the morning!
He's a lover of cheesesteaks, so we enjoyed this for lunch...

then drove to Walmart to get him parts for his bike that Nick had been working on so that he could have transportation at school! I enjoyed hearing both the boys tell about their classes and teachers. Seems they're trying to figure out the balance of study and fun...ONE of them favors study, the other would rather major in FUN! A little compromise on both ends might make for the best outcome!

Nick's been putting in some time on a little junker-bike Alex wanted to have at school since he was forbidden to take his BABY with him for at least the first few months.

It was so cute watching Nick work into the night on it...I think it was his way of working through his brother moving away, too. He couldn't wait to show him he'd been fixing it up for him. I found him thinking about Alex more than I thought he would. They're at that age they still annoy each other...but apparently there's alot of unrevealed affection deep down in there too!

He seems to have found a new person to turn his attention to...

whether she appreciates it or not!

It was a short visit with Alex, but it was intended to be that way...didn't want to break up the rhythm of his independance so soon in the semester! Since I had borrowed my parent's GPS for the trip to school, I thought we'd take a side trip here since it was right off the highway...

We made a few wrong turns finding it, but had a great time looking around when we got there. Nick and Emma probably annoyed a few of the customers, but they were thoroughly entertained by the flat carts inside....and that worked for me- gave me time to look w/out complainers following me around. But on the way home, Ms. GPS went berserk and took us the LONG way home (20 mi out of the way???) through the back roads of King Of Prussia that I never knew existed. Seems it was the only route she knew...no matter how we reset the thing, she kept taking us back to the very same, lame route. But, we made it...and now everyone's in bed but me. I'm not sure if I'm reflecting on the day or not wanting to face what tomorrow holds when I wake up!

I hate packing....but am thankful for friends who have volunteered to make the job a little easier by helping! Strange days around here. It seems there's really very little that is settled and in its' place...literally and figuratively. And yet, I'm not in despair, not depressed, and not overly concerned about what happens next. No way that can be explained away by anything else but God's abundant GRACE! If I look to the circumstances...really gaze upon the heaviness that faces me, I think I'd curl in a ball and never get out of bed. Sometimes life is just like that. And yet, God's plan is to help scrape us out of bed in the morning, dust us off and send us on our way to do the next thing. Our job is to cooperate and do it...with THANKSGIVING.

The next thing ahead of me is a good night's sleep...but my day would not be complete without a list of things I'm thankful for this day...

*Waking up healthy after a good night's sleep
*My children waking up healthy after a good night's sleep
*Food on the table for breakfast
*Gas in the car to visit Alex
*A surprised smile of joy on Alex's face when it sunk in that we were there
*Lunch with Alex and Drew
*A diet Pepsi with lunch
*A healthy, strong son who is in Bible college...following God's plan one year at a time
*Silly children who bicker one minute...then hug each other the next
*Hugs from Alex..even though one was hello, and the other was goodbye
*$5 dinner for 3 at Ikea
*A GPS which eventually got us home
*All four of us having a place to lay our heads tonight
*New mercies every morning to wake up to....and start all over again

Friday, August 21, 2009

We did it...

I'm not sure I can trust myself to write coherent thoughts right now...but it seems to be the thing that causes me to work through and deal with my emotions.
I'm exhausted in every sense of the word today. I woke up that way, actually. We had an awesome day yesterday moving Alex into his dorm, meeting his RA and some of the guys who'll be on his floor.

Alex and his best friend/roomate, Drew, can make even a dull moment seem like a party!

The months of anticipation of what the drop-off day would be like had been building up inside me, but it was nothing like what I expected it to be like. Really...I laughed alot! It helps that I already really love Drew and his family, so 8 of us hanging out together in their tiny little room was actually kind of a hoot!
One of the unexpected little blessings of the day was laughter when I had anticipated alot of tears. Don't get me wrong, at the appropriate time-the very end of the day, the tears came...for all 4 of us, really. Wait, mine actually started at dinner when Nick started the countdown- reminding me every few minutes exactly how much time was left before I had to "leave my firstborn child at college"!!

We were having a great time at dinner, just the four of us, and suddenly, just the reminder that "there are exactly 25 minutes left, mom.." turned on tears like a faucet! Funny thing how that works....I wasn't even feeling like crying! But just the reminder made my eyes water! I imagine it probably was just as funny as my kids thought it was...but they could have been nicer and STOP REMINDING ME JUST SO THEY COULD SEE IF IT HAPPENED AGAIN! I should punish them or something.
So, anyway...all in all it really was a great day. We made some new memories and enjoyed our last day together as a family.

Here are some of my favorite memories of the day...

*Watching the boys say goodbye to Kelly, the other best friend in the group

*The Philly Exit...and feeling butterflies in my stomach, knowing there was no turning back

*Driving in the driveway and seeing the welcome and "Check-in" signs

*Watching the boys discover what was in the other person's boxes

*Alex's reaction to...

Drew's duck phone...

*Watching Drew get his eyebrows trimmed with LARGE scissors, and thoroughly enjoying it!

My most favorite memory is one I can't really capture in a picture. I wished so much I had a video camera rolling, but this snapshot was taken at the end of the night when we were saying our goodbyes...the exact same time I heard Alex whisper in his brother's ear,

Hey, take care of mom and Em, ok? Do you hear me?

I love you

A moment forever embedded into my memory.

About that time I decided not to hold back any longer and the tears came. It was a sweet moment with alot of hugs and "I love you's"...and then we were gone. The ride home was quiet...Nick and Emma gave me the time to drive and curl up into my own thoughts for a while. Coming home was weird. It's not like Alex has spent a whole lot of time here this summer...it's been a few months of freedom and fun for him. But driving in the driveway, just the three of us, my heart actually ached. Our family dynamic is different. One of us is missing. It's still good...just different. It'll take a while...like for instance, when I got that ache again tonight when I pulled out three dinner plates, not four....it's going to take some getting used to, this college-thing.

Fortunately for me, there was no time this morning for feeling sorry for myself. After very little sleep I was up early to prepare for a big SALE at Lulu & Tutz. Today and tomorrow we're having a 50% off SALE to prepare for our move next week. The timing is less than desirable, but it kept my mind occupied today, and I suppose will do the same tomorrow. Next week we pack the whole place up in boxes...to store until a plan has been made for the future of the shop. And the next week school starts for the other two. It's a busy few weeks, but I think it's all good.

And it really IS all good. Even the ache of the heart and the leaky tears. I have a new perspective today. I looked at my other two kids who are still in my house, and realized in 3 and 6 years I'll be doing this again...and those years are going to fly by just like Alex's did. I think I'll look at the time we have together differently...through new eyes. It is SO fleeting. So short...too short not to intentionally think about it. They need me NOW....but won't in just a few short years. Time is precious, a lessoned I think I really JUST learned.

More on those thoughts later, and how they pertain to what on earth I will do with the shop or whatever else I end up doing to generate some income into our household. Each lesson heaps on top of the last one...I feel I may need a fair share of quiet time in order to sort through how the combination of them all will affect my future decisions.

I'm in a very LONG waiting room, but it's not really a quiet room...there are voices everywhere trying to sway me to their side! It's just overload today to think about them...enough already, give a mom some peace! They'll still be there tomorrow and the next day when I can relax enough to listen in. (*DISCLAIMER read this* not ACTUAL voices in my head, ok? Just lots of advice- solicited and unsolicited...just wanted to be clear.)

Off to chill with the kids...till next time...

Thursday, August 20, 2009

To Alex...

I'm up early this morning, in anticipation of the excitement of the day, I guess. Or maybe it's because I felt like there were so many things I needed to say to you, so if I got up early I'd somehow be able to collect my thoughts and have enough time to say all those last minute things that are on my mind....
So, here it is, in very random order:

*Go with your shoulders straight and your head held high, you have earned the privilege of going out into the world on your own.
*Know that here at home the three of us stand behind you, supporting your new life and cheering you on behind the scenes.
*Set a standard for yourself that is high- from the moment you enter the campus. Start out and finish well...something you will NEVER regret.
*Remember that if you do your laundry more than once a week you'll always have clean socks and underwear! (And don't put your new red shirt in with your new white shirt...take the time to SEPARATE THEM...you'll be glad you did)
*From your first morning, start the habit of spending a few minutes asking the Lord to join you on your day. Get your direction from Him, then follow them throughout the day....another thing you'll never regret.
*Occasionally shoot me a text, just to remind me that you're on the other end...just to let me know you're surviving well!
*Study hard...from your first class til the very last day maximize your time, use it well...prove to yourself that the time, money and effort to get there was well worth every ounce of sweat it took.
*HAVE FUN EVERY DAY. Not that I have to remind you to do that, you seem to do that well where ever you are! So...make sure Drew has fun every day!
*Make sure Drew helps you to be serious for at least a little bit of every day, too!*Drink milk.
*Drink water.
*Drink a moderate amount of coffee in your new coffee pot

*I wanted to make you a pot of coffee to show you how it works, but time got away from us, so here's how:

1.Fill with the amount of cups of water you want. (for you and Drew to have a good size cup, maybe fill 6 cups)
2.Put a filter in the top
3.Add the same amount of scoops of coffee as you did water. (Ex. if you add 6 cups of water, then add 6 scoops of coffee....strong, but good!)

*Remember each morning how good God has been to you.
*Don't forget the struggles you've faced, the mornings that were not so good...keep them in the back of your mind as a reminder of how good and faithful the Lord has been to you. That He's had His eye on you all these years and orchestrated all these things to bring you right here...to PBU.
*Know that while I am more than thrilled that you are taking this journey, our house is not the same without you, and we'll be missing you each day. Not a "boo-hoo, can't get up in the morning" kind of missing, but one that is constantly in the background....the elephant in the corner that goes unspoken, but is still there. You've left your crazy mark on all of us, and we'll miss your presence lurking around this place!
*Get some sleep...I know how you like to maximize your day and get in everything possible before going to bed, but sleep is good...don't forget!
*Remember two things most of all:

1. That God has a plan for you this year, and beyond. He's got a few things He wants you to do. He'll be waiting for you to listen. Give Him a chance to rock your world and direct you into your future. Let this year be a time of giving Him your total attention and seeing where He leads.

2. That there will be no words from me today that will express how very proud I am of you. While I'd like to think I'll be able to share everything that is on my heart before I drive away from you tonight...that just won't happen...it's why you're reading them here!
I'm speechless, void of words when you're standing in front of me...

unable to fathom how we went from this

to this in such a short time.

I'm unable to figure out where on earth all the years went. How you went from hanging on my every word, to having a strong mind of your own. How is it that yesterday you climbed on my lap to tell me every detail of the firetrucks down the street, and today you unpack into a dorm room???? It's all so good...and so right, but also unbelievably hard!

Ok, that's it...at least for now. The house will be stirring in a few minutes and I'm going to shower and compose myself before you see the blubbering mess I've made myself this morning! By the time you awake, I'll have dried the tears and resolved to smile through this day. For there is MUCH to smile about and be proud of in this day...and I will remind myself of this all throughout the day.
When you read this, I'll be gone. You'll be setting up your computer in your new room with Drew, and I hope you'll be laughing and carrying on while you do it (who am I kidding, OF COURSE YOU WILL!!). Have fun!
I love you, Alex...
"The Lord will keep you from all harm-
He will watch over your life;
The Lord will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore."
Ps. 121:7-8

Monday, August 17, 2009

A month of birthdays and a feline....

August seems to be a busy month in every family, but in ours along with the back-to-school scurry there are also 4 birthdays to celebrate. So, in order to get them all in before the great college departure, we crammed them all in in the last few days.

Last week was Tammi's celebration...she's holding a gift certificate for a much-needed spa day!

Her kids surprised her with the sweetest photo/scrapbook that they put together themselves. Each one of the kids picked out a couple of their favorite pictures then wrote a special note to her. I think it is something she will treasure for the rest of her life. In the midst of some really tough days, the kids spoke words to her from their hearts....those unprompted words every mom wants to hear. Each of us had to hold back tears as we read the sweet words of thanksgiving that the kids spoke to their mom.
Words and memories to cherish...

Last night we combined three more birthdays into one celebration - two of the college-bound freshman and one 10yr old! Each were excited to open their momentos and find a shopping spree with the grandparents...a dream for kids of all ages!!!

birthday parties of yesteryear!

We've had so many of these celebration dinners together that they all begin to blur together, but we marveled last night how quickly these older two have grown up. Just two more days of packing til Alex leaves us...and another week until Eden departs. Where has the time gone?!?

With the parties behind us, it's time to dig in and get some packing done for the drive to college on THURSDAY. Nineteen year old boys, while under the impression that they are full-grown adults, do NOT have the ability to organize and pack for college by themselves....at least not in MY house! While he's off enjoying one last beach day, in the back of my mind tomorrow's To-Do List has been steadily growing. He has NO idea what will hit him in the next two days!

To add to the chaos, somehow I momentarily let my guard down....just long enough for Emma to ask if she can please, Please, PLEASE have one of my sister's kittens, and for me to give in and say yes.

...under one condition, that she takes on sole custody of the feline and care for her like a mom. SO, Emma spent the day cleaning and organizing so that Zoe would have her own space in her room.

I think she did a pretty good job...
(Yes! That IS the litterbox in her bedroom....it's worth a try, but I think we'll resort to the bathroom before long!)

And she was MORE than ready to bring her home...and into her bed...which is where Zoe has taken up nightly residence. Not unlike other new mothers, Emma didn't get much sleep last night. Apparently Zoe enjoys switching sides of the bed often and Emma obliged by scooting over and letting THE CAT be the boss.

I almost forgot that while I love kittens, I'm not such a fan of cats...and mostly for the above reason. They like to take charge and tell you how it's going to be!

I think we're in for an interesting week. I've pushed off the emotions that will inevitably take hold of me on Thursday as we drive Alex away from home, but only because I just HAVE to! Can't boo-hoo my way through the week...I'm sure I'll do my fair share in the dorm room Thursday evening before we drive away to leave him at school. For tonight, I'm planning on sleeping well. A mom's gotta do what a mom's gotta do.

Tomorrow's a new day...thankfully God gives grace and strength for each new day and for whatever He calls upon us to do.

I think I'm ready...

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

can't sleep...

It's 2am and my boys just got home a while ago from an Orioles game. You know how it's just not right until the door's been locked with everyone inside for the night....how a mom just can't rest until everyone else is resting? Well, everyone's home, but I just can't seem to be able to sleep and I find myself sitting here needing to write out what's on my mind. Maybe if I just say it, then I can rest. Maybe.
Here's the thing, my eldest child is heading off to college in 1 week and 1 day...and it's all I can do to say that without bawling like a big baby!
It dawned on me while I was waiting for them to get home that in just over a week I will not be waiting for Alex to come home. He'll be gone. Sleeping in a new bed...and his will be empty.
For generations moms have been sending their firstborns off to college...I KNOW, I'm not the first. But it feels like it. It seems like yesterday that he came into my world...and changed it forever. Seems like I just sent him off to kindergarten, trying to hide my tears behind the camera. And just a few minutes ago I was reading to him and watching him ride his bike for the first time.
I thought when I watched him drive away by himself for the very first time that we had reached an ultimate milestone....that he'd become so grown up.
But now...now I don't even have proper words to put to my thoughts.
I can't figure out how to say all the things that swell up inside me every morning. I can't figure out how to stop the clock for the next 8 days. I can't figure out how to explain to him how I can be so proud and excited for him at the very same time that my heart is breaking into pieces. In my mind there are all these things I want to say...like it's somehow my last chance to mother him and make sure he remembers everything I've taught him in the last 19 years. There are so many details to be attended to in this next week...so much left to be done. But all I want to do is turn back the clock 10 years and do it all over again.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

It's her birthday!

Today is my favorite sister's birthday. I woke up thinking how much fun it might be to post some old memories of her!!! I seem to remember having a BIG birthday recently, and opened up my Facebook page to find horrible pictures of ME all over it....courtesy of Tammi. So, I wouldn't actually call this revenge or getting even...let's call it- "I had to do it, but at the end, just remember that it's only because I love you SO much!". Ok?

It all started here...

Tammi Lynne Cook
August 11, 1966

Two years later she had a sister...
because being an only child would have made her spoiled and lonely

Sportin the box-cut

Growing up in the PINK room...which I'm still bitter about....mine was YELLOW?!??! Whatever.

Our awkward 80's years

High school years...

I remember that dress. She wouldn't let me borrow it.
Right after these pictures she decided to grow up and go off to college. Leaving ME as an only child. I remember the day we took her to Nyack College and mom, dad and I drove away in our Buick station wagon. I cried all the way home. Somewhere between the elementary years and all of the sisterly bickering --(I distinctly remember the one fight that you yelled, "I HATE YOU" at me...something there's no way on earth I deserved. I'm sure it had NOTHING AT ALL to do with my desire to be the golden child of the family. You spit it out right outside my bedroom door, I remember. I doubt that I did anything to you. I doubt that I was pestering you or trying to borrow your clothes. Meanie.)--anyway, somewhere between all of that and the day she abandoned me for college I decided I kind of liked her.
So...fast forward a few boyfriends and a few years forward....

The thing she always wanted for herself. I remember her being OBSESSED with each new baby in the church nursery. Every young mother around wanted to chum up with her so they could have a break while she held their newborns. Funny how you can look back and realize there was a theme of life forming and we didn't even know it!

love the hair and makeup!

Pregnant just about all the time!

(haha!!! I had to use this one...look at that profile!!!!)

The motherhood years have been some of the hardest, but she's raising some pretty great kids....some of my favorite in the world!

What a blessing to be raising our crew up together.

Some days are just long, hard and lonely. Being a single mom is constantly presenting one challenge or another, but she's doing it. One day into the next, she's rising up and meeting each challenge. And it's making her into a better woman, and my prayer is that it makes her children into better people, too. She's staked her foot into the ground and purposed to follow the path laid out before her each day.

These little women are watching her. They're observing what it means to follow after God with all their heart. They're watching what it means to meet a challenge and humbly face it. They're seeing that even when it hurts, life goes on. And I pray each of these girls (and the three boys too!) will one day reflect on a mother who gave her all so that they would see Jesus in their home each day.

So...my favorite sister in the world, Happy Birthday. May this day be filled with unexpected blessings. And, may the year ahead bring JOY even when there is pain, HOPE even when you don't think you have any, and PEACE like you've never known before.
You are my hero for so many reasons...I'm proud to be your little sister.
I love you
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