Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Grandpa's Hands

When Grandpa turned 90, Aunt Peg asked all of us to write something about his hands and she compiled them all and put them in a book. That may seem like a strange theme for a book honoring someone's 90th birthday, but if you really knew Grandpa, it wouldn't surprise you at all! Grandpa spoke with his hands. He loved with his hands. He prayed with his hands. He worked with his hands. His hands were hard and calloused and thick. You could tell that they had done their fair share and more of work. Looking at them for the first time, one would not likely describe them as tender or gentle, but that person probably had not seen Grandpa transplant a pepper plant or pat Corky's head. That person probably never experienced a deep conversation with Grandpa where he would put one hand on their back and use the other hand to generate gestures to emphasize his point. That person probably never watched him brush his toast crumbs into a miniature little pile on the table in front of his plate. (Did you ever notice that habit of his? He had such a method to it! He would scoop up all the crumbs into a pile, tap his hand on the table to shake it all off and then he'd start all over again. All the while he would be sucking on his toothpick making those little sucking noises to get everything out of his teeth! :)

Yesterday I looked up my contribution to Grandpa's Hands book and I would like to share it here. I'm sure many of you have your own memories of Grandpa's hands. These are a few of mine.

That big, hard finger that was caught in the corn shucker sure kept me quiet during church. I can still remember sitting in the old Barberton church next to you one Sunday night during singing. I was probably only about 3 or 4 years old. I don’t know what I was doing (most likely playing around or not sitting still), but all of a sudden I felt the WHACK! on my head! That disciplinary finger of yours made contact with the top of my head and I settled down immediately! I learned to have great respect for that finger of yours!

I have a memory of sitting at your kitchen table after finishing a meal and seeing you with your elbows propped on the table and your fingertips tapping each other as you were telling us stories. I don’t know why that memory has stayed so many years, but even now, you will sit the same way at the end of a meal as you enjoy visiting with whoever might happen to be there sharing your meal with you, or leaning on your hands looking out the window at your flowers and trees.

Your hands are always lifting your hat and brushing your forehead of the sweat of your labors. Your hands work long and hard, yet they also give you relief as you lift your hat and refresh your head. This is also a memory that will always remain with me.

Your hands have also felt pain. I remember when you cut your hand and saw something sticking out of the cut, so you took some scissors and cut that thing off! You found out very quickly that “that thing” was a nerve! Only you would try to “fix” your hand like that by yourself!

Your hands also taught me how to pull weeds around pepper plants, how to pick plums off of a tree, how to carefully pick up chestnut burrs and put them in a pile. Your hands taught me how to push dirt around a new plant, how to tenderly hold a heavy vine full of grapes, how to take a rock out of the garden and throw it with all your might into the trees. Your hands have shown me how to love the ground that God has given to us to enjoy gardening.

I see you put your hands on someone’s back as you lean close to them to listen or to speak with them. The human touch that you give when you counsel someone tells them that you are really listening and that you care enough about them to touch them with your solid hands.

Your hands are the ones that held mine as you lowered me into the baptismal in East Akron in June of 1983. The picture of your hands holding mine is as clear as day because that was such a monumental day in my life. Your hands are the ones that rested on my head that afternoon as you prayed for me, that I would be sealed with the Holy Spirit and that I would grow in the Lord. Your hands had a part in blessing me that day.

Grandpa, I’m sure that your hands have been clasped together many times praying for my mom, for my parents and for myself. Thank you for praying for your future generations and for using your hands to teach us so many things. May God continue to bless your hands because you use them for Him!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Ups and Downs of Emotions

Today is a very bittersweet day for me. My emotions are so twisted around I just don't even know what to think anymore. Today was supposed to be a day of rejoicing and excitement as we would be experiencing our first day of worship in our new church building! We had talked about it for months and weeks and finally days! The boys have been praying and thanking Jesus for the workers who were building the church. We were talking each other through the day: where we would play in the babyroom during Bible Class, where the boys would be singing before Sunday School, where their new classes would be, where Daddy and Mommy and Christopher would be in the new sanctuary, etc. They even talked about where we would park the van and go to the bathroom! They were that excited! We ALL were!

But then this morning, I read an e-mail from Mom. "Hi all, Donna just called and said when she got there this AM that Grandpa had passed away.We're on our way now.Talk to you later.Love Mom" What?! Did I read that right?! Grandpa?! But Grandpa was a piller! Grandpa was constant! Grandpa was solid! Grandpa was always there as the support for our family. He was gone?! I was just getting ready to call Mom's cell phone when she called here and we just cried together. All of us knew that Grandpa would be lonely without Grandma, but I think that we all kind of hoped he could stay here a bit longer. After Fred let me cry on him this morning, we sat down with the boys who were watching this whole scene unfold. We talked about how much we'll miss Grandpa, but now he was with Jesus, right where he wanted to be! We assured the boys that our tears were also happy tears because we were excited for Grandpa, although we were sad to think we wouldn't be able to talk to him or see him anymore.

As I was sitting in our new and beautiful sanctuary this morning singing "Thank Ye The Lord", I let my emotions take over. Everyone else in that huge sanctuary was singing their thanks to the Lord for what He's given us in a new church building, but I had to think about how thankful I was that Grandpa now had his greatest desire fulfilled - to be in the presence of the Lord! We had talked about the construction of the new church and he talked to me about what it was like to build the church in Norton. We had a connection there. And now here I was sitting in our brand new church, and I couldn't even tell Grandpa what it was like. That's ok. I'm sure he's listening and even participating in an even greater congregation of those washed by the blood of the Lamb! His place of worship is even more beautiful and breathtaking than what we can imagine!

Someone asked me today what I would miss most about my grandpa. To all my siblings and cousins, this is for your benefit. :) I answered that I would miss his "finger." I'm sure you all know what I'm talking about. Surely I couldn't have been the only one who experienced "the finger" on top of the head for misbehaving in church! Grandpa had a finger caught in a corn shucker when he was a child. He lost the tip of his finger and it eventually became a nice, hard disciplining tool when a misbehaving child needed a good thunk on the head. I haven't felt that thunk for probably 35 years, but trust me! When you got that finger on your head, it was a hard thing to forget!

Yes, I will miss Grandpa terribly. To whom will I be able to ask all my gardening questions?! With whom can I share my dismay at having to pay hard earned money for tasteless peppers or corn on the cob from a store when I know that Grandpa had had bounty to share with everyone? Who will share with us the stories of those whose lives he touched in simple, but real ways? Several people told me today that they will always remember him for his down-to-earth sermons and his ability to preach as if he were sitting next to them having a one-on-one conversation. Someone else also commented that Grandpa must have been very obedient in his childhood for God to bless him with such a long life. I don't know what he was like as a child, and I think he was probably selective in what he shared with us (ha ha), but yes. Giving his life to the Lord in his youth had blessed him with many years!

So my heart has gone up and down all day today. I'm sad that the familiarity of our old church building is now a thing of the past, but I'm thrilled that Grandpa's familiarity with this world is over! I'm so happy to be worshipping in a new church building, but I'm sad that my grandpa will no longer be here on earth. Wow. Emotions can really throw you for a loop, but that's why we need to rely on the facts! Grandpa is now worshipping in HIS new sanctuary! The one in front of the Lamb of God, Himself! You've got it better than us, Grandpa! Praise God in HIS sanctuary, Hallelujah, AMEN!

(Unfortunately, tonight I am not able to add any pictures to this entry for some reason. Please see my sister, Liz's entry for a beautiful picture of Grandpa!)

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Buses ... Grrrrrr

This is only the fourth day that Stephen has ridden the bus to and from school and I'm so frustrated I can't believe it! This bus system here is NOTHING like good old Chippewa Local Schools where you have the same bus driver year after year and the same memorable bus number to worry about (Like Mrs. Keller driving Bus 12 for who knows how many years, and that was only after Mrs. Jarrett retired from Bus 4 and Jessie left number 14!). No. Here we have several bus lines that are hired to take the children to and from school. Their numbers are confusing (PO53 - Red butterfly to school and PS169 - Black Horse on the way home). There are public and Catholic school busses that stop at the same bus stops so you have to know your number and bus line. They are not necessarily the same bus lines. They seem to never be the same bus driver!!! They are NEVER on a consistent schedule!

Let me explain my frustration. At our orientation meeting with the teacher during the first week of school, she told me that she was checking on Stephen's bus situation on the way home. Seems he was on a bus route that was unfamiliar to the rest of the school and was actually the only one scheduled to ride this particular bus on this particular bus line. Clue number one that we will be having issues! They did some research and found out that for some reason, they had him being bussed to a completely different neighborhood not even within this school's boundaries all by himself! I'm not sure where they were going to drop him off since there's only ONE 30 Crest Haven Street in Kitchener! Not to worry. That problem was resolved before his first bus ride home.

Second clue that there would be issues: Stephen's original drop off time was indicated to be 12:25. School lets out at 11:40. We only live about seven miles from school. Where is the bus going during that time?! No one is quite sure. Day 1, I wait for the bus at 12:25 down the street and around the corner at the bus stop. The bus arrives around 12:40. Day 2, I wait at the same location, but arrive a bit earlier because we are told it would be earlier. Bus arrives at 12:30. The unknown driver shouts to us that it will be 12:11 from now on. Ok. That's a big difference, but I accept that. I find a paper in Stephen's backpack telling us parents that the bus schedule has indeed changed and his drop off time will now be at 12:11 starting Tuesday (day 4). Day 3, I wait at the bus stop at 12:20 and Stephen comes at 12:25. Perfect! But then I get a phone call from the transportation department of the school district saying that Stephen's drop off time will now officially be at 12:25, despite the previous day's letter saying that it was to change to 12:11. I call this morning (day 4) to make sure I know what's going on. I am told to disregard the letter and follow the original time schedule. Stephen will be dropped off at 12:25.

Sigh. This is where I am totally frustrated. Because we had plenty of time, I put Christopher in his stroller and got Timothy's shoes on him and we went the opposite direction out of the house down the next street to the mailbox first. We had plenty of time, so I decided to take advantage of it and get the mail first then go around the block to the bus stop. Well ... as we are still waaayyy down the street, I see the bus come barrelling around the corner and stop! It was only 12:06!!!!!! I grabbed Timothy's hand and started running as fast as I could. Timothy is screaming for me to stop running so I grabbed him and carried him as I tried to run and push the stroller. I don't know why I bothered. He was throwing a fit because he didn't want to be carried. Christopher was screaming because some maniac was pushing his stroller out of control. I was screaming just in case the other parents could hear me to ask the driver to wait.... but no. No one heard until it was too late. They didn't see me or hear me and the bus took off with Stephen still on it. If we aren't there to pick up our child, they have to take them back to the school and we have to go pick them up.

Well, I was pretty upset to say the least. I'm wheezing like crazy now trying to push the stroller uphill and drag Timothy at the same time, knowing it's a lost cause. The other parents see me at this point and they all start running after the bus waving their arms, but no luck. Thank the Lord, the bus goes around a crescent and ends up back at the mailbox where we had just been for another drop off so I knew that if I tried really hard, I could run like crazy back down the street and get to the mailbox before the bus did. As I'm running, I'm shouting at Timothy to go sit on our front steps when we pass our house. What a sweetheart! He did just what I asked. Another mom ran ahead of me since she didn't have a stroller to push, just two little kindergarten boys. She ran ahead with one boy and the other one stayed with Timothy while I pushed Christopher even faster and crazier down the hill now to the mailbox. I got to the end of our street (I still had another half a block to go to get to the bus stop) and decided I was just going to flag the driver down. I had run enough!

She did stop when she saw me standing in the middle of the road waving at her. She looked at me very quizzically and I panted heavily that I wanted to pick up Stephen who was supposed to be dropped off three stops previous. She looked very surprised and there was Stephen standing next to her trying not to cry. She said, "Well, I asked if there was anyone else that was supposed to get off there, but no one answered." Of course not! He's a little kid who is just obeying the adults around him! He didn't realize he was allowed to make that decision as to whether or not he should get off! Poor kid! He was so brave, but I could tell he wasn't quite sure what to think about all this. He never would have said a word, but would have dutifully ridden all the way back to school if I hadn't have been able to stop the bus!

So who knows what's going to happen now. When I called the bus garage today to confirm the drop off time of 12:25 (NOT 12:06!!), she told me that for now this is the time, but that it will be changing again. I'm not sure how much longer I can do this. Do you know how hard it is to entertain two little boys for a half an hour time span at a bus stop with nothing to do but wait?! They're not that patient! Thankfully the weather has been beautiful, but had it been raining, or worse yet, snowing, I would have been more than frustrated!

Oh, give me Chippewa's Mrs. Keller who would have sat there and waited for me because she would have known that I would be there! I hope I don't have any more days like today for a long, long time! If ever!

On the positive side: at least I got more than my normal exercise in today! :)

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Birthday Boys!

Today we celebrated Timothy and Christopher's birthdays! Yes, both of them share the 15th of September as their birth day. Timothy turned three today and Christopher is celebrating his first birthday. We decided to have a Lego birthday this year since that had been the plan for Timothy's birthday last year, but it never happened.
Last year, Stephen and Timothy and I were in the kitchen looking at pictures of Lego birthday cakes on the internet when my water broke and the adventure of Christopher's birth began. It was the day before Timothy's second birthday and we weren't expecting the new baby until sometime in October! Surprise, surprise! When Aunt Joanna (who had the boys while I was in the hospital) found out that Timothy was supposed to have a Lego cake for his birthday, she made a cake and put some Legos on it. He was happy about it, but this year decided that he wanted the Lego cake that he saw on the computer instead. I attempted to recreate what I saw on that website, but as you can tell from my pictures, I'm no cake decorator!
We had fun tonight at our Lego party! Auntie Esther brought some Lego candies that actually worked like the real ones, except that you can eat these! I finished decorating the cake with the ones that the kids let me have! We had Lego fruit snacks that Aunt Miriam got for us from the States and shared them with all of our cousins. We built with Legos (mostly the candy ones so that some could be snitched every so often). We ate our Lego cake. We had fun!
Grandpa and Grandma Schley called Timothy to sing Happy Birthday and I really wish I could have been videotaping the whole thing! First of all, they sounded pretty good singing together over Skype, and secondly, Timothy was so thrilled to have them sing to him! He was grinning from ear to ear and had the most amusing expression on his face as he listened. He loved every bit of the attention!
My little boys are growing up! It's hard to believe that Christopher is already a year old and little Timothy is three! He starts Sunday School tomorrow and couldn't be more thrilled! A grandmother friend of mine emailed me today and told me to enjoy these younger years because before I know it, I'll be an empty nester like her. It's hard to imagine that at this stage, but just looking back on how fast this past year has gone, I can see why she would say that.
So, Happy Birthday to my precious little boys who are growing up so fast! I love you, Timothy and Christopher, and may God give you many more happy birthdays in your lives!

Friday, September 14, 2007

Cooking Company

This week I did something that I have found I really enjoy. Twice this week, on Wednesday and today, I had friends come over and we cooked together. What a great way to get a tedious task out of the way! Visit while you cook!

On Tuesday, my fellow-mom friend who also has a JK student starting school this week came over and we baked muffins to have on hand to send to school for the boys' snacks. What a lot of fun ... most of the time! At one point when all the kids were either crying or screaming we just looked at each other and laughed and she shouted so that I could hear, "It feels like a day care in here!" With babies and preschoolers playing, fighting and being themselves, it got pretty noisy at times, but we got our baking done! Actually, it was quite nice. One of us would be tending to the kids while the other one kept measuring or stirring or washing dishes. We got so much done, had a great time visiting and the kids got to play with their friends. There is also a nice little stash of Raspberry Yogurt Zucchini Muffins and Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread in the freezer! Yummm!

Today another fellow-mom came and we made some delicious soup together for tonight's supper. She brought all her ingredients and we stood in the kitchen and chopped onions and carrots and potatoes and cauliflower together while we took turns wiping noses, changing diapers, stopping tantrums and washing dishes. Once again, lots of fun! It's amazing how enjoyable making supper can be when you're not doing it all by yourself. We traded tips on how to manage our days better, how to liven up boring recipes, how to get our kids to clean up after themselves, etc. We took a little break from cooking when we went for a long walk around the block after meeting Stephen at his bus stop. What a beautiful day for that, especially since about an hour later it started to pour! We all enjoyed our time together and wished that it wasn't nap time because that meant our friends had to go home and the boys had to head upstairs. There were lots of tears because of that, but the promise that we'd do it again soon calmed them for the moment.

If you've never tried this before, I highly recommend finding a friend that you can cook with. Last summer my baking partner and I got together with my neighbor several times and we let the kids play while we made several freezer meals. Two of us were expecting babies at the time and the other was getting ready to move, so we all had busy lives that would benefit from a frozen meal ready to go. We would make enough of a dish so that we had a meal ready for that night, plus one ready to go into the freezer. We got together about once a month or more and it was so nice to visit and work at the same time. If you want some recipe ideas of what to do, let me know. We put together several easy dishes that were simple yet something all of our families would eat.

If you try this, have fun and let me know how it went!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

First Day of School

Today was Stephen's first official day of school! He is in Junior Kindergarten this year, which in Canada, is a preschool that is part of the kindergarten program in the public schools. He has been looking forward to this day for sooo long!

We did great this morning, making sure we had everything ready to go so we could be out the door and at the bus stop before the bus came. I thought we were well ahead of schedule, but the bus must have been, too! We got to the bus stop, said hello to the other students waiting in line, chatted a bit with the other kindergarten mother that was there and within a minute or two, that big yellow bus came roaring around the corner! It all happened so fast, I didn't even get to give my little baby one last hug before he got at the end of the line and was climbing on the bus! I watched as his little head slowly walked past row after row of seats (some of them empty!), all the way to the back of the bus where he squeezed in with two other children. I guess I forgot to tell him that he could sit in any seat that was empty or nearly empty. He had been talking about sitting in the front right next to the door so that he could see out the front window, but I guess not. Ok. Why am I relaying all these details? I guess because I'm a first time mom sending my baby off to school on a bus without me! I need to talk about the details just to make sure it was real.

Well, he came home with a happy face. He was telling us all about the bus ride home and how the kids were joking that the bus driver was going to drop one of the kids off at Sears and the other was going to Zellers (discount store) and the other was going to be dropped off at Zehrs (grocery store). He thought it was quite humorous. He told us about the building that he built with the blocks and how he wrote his name with really big letters, but he only did "S" and "T" and then he ran out of room. He told us that there were too many pretzels for his snack and that another boy named Jonathan (but not the Jonathan that is our cousin) had a Thomas backpack. Wow. I LOVE that I have a chatterbox little boy! We got to hear all kinds of stories from him this morning, and he willingly shared the details!

We missed Stephen this morning. He's such a people person who always wants to be in the thick of things and we really noticed his absence. Even my little introverted Timothy was asking when it was time to go get Stephen from the bus. I have to confess, though, that even though we missed Stephen, I sure got a lot of stuff done this morning! We went to the library to return our books and get the boys' birthday books (free books on your birthday up to age 12!), put Christopher down for a nap, Timothy played alone in all his glory (no one to steal his trains or blocks or crayons!) and I did two loads of wash including putting them away, made supper, cleaned the kitchen, played with Timothy, read him books, caught up on some emails, etc, etc. Just one little boy away at school gave me so much more time. I didn't have to break up one fight all morning! :)

Our little baby is now our big school boy. God, please protect that little boy and let him make friends with those who will be a good influence on him. Let him shine for you and reflect your love. Did I teach him everything he needed to know before he left for school? I don't think so, but that's where I have to rely on You! Take care of our little boy at school!

PS Werner was released from the hospital this morning and is resting at home! He wasn't supposed to be released until Friday, but he's doing well enough to be at home! Thank the Lord for that!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

A Miracle

We received this email from my sister-in-law, Joanna, regarding Werner's surgery today. What a miracle that the kidney does not show any cancer! This was what they saw last week and what they were expecting to find today, yet there seems to be only a cyst! Now we just need to continue to pray for the results of the bladder's tumor biopsy. Pray for another miracle!

Dear Brothers and Sisters in the Lord,

All praise to God. We want to first thank you for all the prayers that you have said on our behalf. God has heard them and answered many of them so far.
After being concerned that Werner might lose one kidney, hearing from the doctor today following the scope on the kidney, the doctor identified that the area of concern was only a cyst and not a problem. The doctor also removed the tumors in the bladder. It will take one more week to get the pathology reports.
God truly has caused another miracle to occur and we yet ask for your prayers that the pathology report is favorable.
Werner is feeling fine and very peaceful and, Lord willing, will leave the hospital on Friday. Truly this peace comes from God and knowing that so many are praying is a great comfort also. This experienced has again increased our appreciation of all of you, our church family and friends.
The Lord brought Psalm 20 to his mind last evening and we would like to quote 2 verses. “We will rejoice in thy salvation, and in the name of our God we will set up our banners”. “Some trust in chariots, and some in horse; but we will remember the name of the LORD our God.”

We will write again next week after receiving the report.

God bless you all, Werner and Joanna

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Urgent Prayer Request

This news may have gotten to you already, but I would like to ask all of you to please pray for my brother-in-law, Werner. He was diagnosed with cancer in his bladder and one kidney last week. He is scheduled for surgery on September 21, but is seeing another specialist this morning in Toronto for a second opinion. Please pray for his healing according to God's will and also for the family and our church. Thank you! (This is a picture of Werner and his daughter, Laura, in June a few days after his 50th birthday.)

Mom Never Sleeps

Last night I was tucking the boys in and I was cuddled up next to Stephen in his bed as we talked about the day. I told him that I was so tired that I would LOVE to be going to sleep with them instead of going back downstairs to finish my work. He cracked me up when he looked at me and so sincerely asked, "Mommy, why don't you ever sleep?" He went on to explain that I am awake when he goes to bed and I'm awake when he wakes up in the morning. When he wakes up overnight, I'm awake (yeah, right!). He never sees me sleep! I admit, I did laugh at him when he was telling me this because it's so true! This is what he sees and he thinks that I don't sleep. I told him that I do sleep, but I don't sleep until I know that he is ok and all the work that I do for him is over for the day. Then I wake up in the morning before him so that I can be ready to take care of him again. Well, he didn't gush all over me and thank me profusely from the bottom of his heart for caring for him or anything, but just the smile on his face was thanks enough for me last night.

Of course, it brought to mind the scripture in Psalms 121:4 where "He that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep." God "keeps" Israel and He doesn't sleep! I "keep" my children, but I still need sleep. :) How comforting that God doesn't! There comes a point in our day when we are completely exhausted and we NEED to sleep, but God doesn't! He keeps on "keeping" for us! That gives me peace so that I can sleep, even when Stephen doesn't see me.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Christopher's Turn

Is it the end of summer that is bringing on all the accidents in our house? I don't think it can be. These guys don't even realize that it IS the end of summer! So what's the deal?!

Saturday was Christopher's day for accidents. Poor guy only has two bottom teeth, but that can be a problem when you're in the bathroom using the stool to try to reach up to pull the towel off the counter by the sink and the stool slips out from under you. I watched it happen in slow motion from across the kitchen and I knew exactly what was going to happen. As he was reaching up, he was balancing himself on the footstool and it slipped under him. He came crashing down, whacking his chin on the stool. By the time I got over to him, I saw blood coming from his mouth. His two little teeth had cut into the toothless upper gum and I could tell that it was really hurting!! I tried the freezie thing on him, too, but he wasn't interested either. He just wanted to cry and have me hold him. I didn't complain!

By bath time, that incident was forgotten, but he wanted to add another bit of excitement to his day. The boys were all three in the tub having a great time. Christopher decided to stand up in the tub, even though he had been warned how many times before that he needed to sit down! Well, I saw another slow motion accident happening in front of my eyes. I watched Christopher stand up, lean over the tub and then just slip like a seal at Sea World right over the edge toward the tile floor! I dove over to grab him, managed to do so, but then he slipped out of my hands back into the tub and landed on his back with a huge splash that surprised all of us! Once again I heard the echoes of the warning never to leave your child in the tub unattended!

Thankfully all is well now. I know that these are probably the simplest of accidents that he will encounter in his life, but that's enough for me right now. We have boys. I think I just have to get used to seeing injuries with blood and scrapes and broken bones and huge lips, etc. In the meantime, every night Fred and I still pray that God would protect them from all those potential dangers that are just calling out for them!