Monthly Archives: August 2008

So far, so good :-)

My poor old neglected blog. I have neither had the time, nor much inclination to write. I notice that my blog stats are going down, there was a time when I didn’t have less than 400 hits daily. Thank you to all you die-hards who are still stopping by to have a look-see every now and then! 

School is going well. I have a lovely bunch of children in all of my classes. The history curriculum took some time for me to get used to but I am loving it more and more! We have had some pretty interesting discussions in class already and I love it when the class is as involved as this bunch has been.

The journalism students are so enthusiastic! The students are all super-bright and creative and there are some strong personalities in the class. It is going to be a challenge to give them as much freedom as possible to express themselves, whilst bearing in mind the constraints placed upon them by the newsletter format. One girl in the class has already typed up an article without being told to do so, and it is hillarious! She has sworn the class to secrecy because she doesn’t want the rest of the school to know about the article until it is published.

I can’t wait to see what the rest of the class is going to come up with.

The one class where I am still finding my feet is the bible class. It’s funny, I thought that was the one class that would be a breeze for me. I dreaded the history, and it is almost my easiest class so far.

We have had some good moments in the bible class but I am still figuring out the age group and what they can and cannot handle. I am such a scripture girl – I think I have overwhelmed them with bible studies that may be a bit over their heads. I have forgotten they are only in their early teens – and they are dealing with all the hormonal stuff on top of everything. It will probably take me a few weeks to find my groove in this class, hopefully I am a quick learner.

Today was a homeschool day. For those of you who do not know, the school is a blend between a private school and a home school, the children have a full day of school three days a week and are homeschooled for the other two. It is nice to have the change of pace on the homeschool days. It has been a crazy, exhausting week and it is nice to slow down and breathe.

Slowing down gives me time to think though, and I have been missing Jenna acutely. I think that the stress of the last few weeks has worn me out and on top of that I am just plain p.m.essy. I was such a grouch this morning, grumbling and complaining about this and that and I couldn’t figure out why. DUH! It’s that time of the month. Couldn’t it have picked a better time? 😀

This picture of Jenna and Kiki was taken exactly a year ago. I miss her so.

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from 6 to 5

I have been spending the best part of the evening today getting prepared for school on Monday. The Journalism course is a huge challenge. Don’t get the wrong idea, I am looking forward to it immensely. But it is a headache for many reasons:

  1. I haven’t done this before.
  2. I have six weeks (my own goal) to get a newsletter printed. By then the children will need to know a humungous amount of stuff just for us to be able to do this.
  3. I know nothing about desktop publishing.
  4. I am not an organiser, and this course will require supreme organisational abilities from me.
  5. Juggling the broad spectrum of tasks that are happening simultaneously in the classroom as well as dealing with all the personalities in the group and their individual needs is going to be huge.

I have planned out the first 7 weeks so far and it looks good on paper. How it is going to go in reality remains to be seen. The weeks that I haven’t planned out will be tweaked pending review of the first 6 weeks.

The History planning is going well too, I did that first. I found it difficult to pull the curriculum together in a unified whole so that the children can get a good grip of the cause and effect of History. It is a very fast paced curriculum that has tons of information – enough for one to drown in. Which makes for interesting History, but this girl needs more structure!

The teacher who taught this course last year gave me an excellent tip: She used to check out children’s books on the subject from the library to give her a good idea of the ‘bare bones’, the essential must-know facts. That should be a time saver for me. I cannot tell you how much extra reading I have done on the topic at hand in order hash out the kind of basic understanding that she got from the children’s books!

Anyhow…I didn’t get the urge to blog just to tell you all about my planning for school. My one-track-minded getting-ready-for-Monday mind-set led indirectly to this blogging moment though.

I noticed how organised the veteran teachers are with all their classroom paraphenalia that I never even thought would be necessary until I saw it. So, duly impressed, I decided to keep an eye out for some nifty things for my class. I found some items right here under my nose.

About a year ago I decided (once again) to get a real chore system going for the household. This time, I was going to use the index card system. Everyone reads their cards and do what they are supposed to do and (voila!) they earn some pocket change that would add up to real money if they are faithful. I think the boys earned about $1.55 before the new chore system ran out of steam, like the others before it.

I had put some magnetic index card holders on the fridge, to file each child’s (and adult’s) cards in. Six containers, because Jenna would be required to help me hang her clothes and feed the kitties.

Walking past the fridge today, those containers caught my eye. They would be perfect for holding dry erase markers, index cards, pencils, what-have you. I could hang them on the inside of my metal class cabinet just like the organised veteran teachers did. Perhaps there is hope for me that I might look organised one day. 🙂

I took one down, leaving 5. Maybe now that I will be working and busy, I am going to need a chore system  again. Hopefully one lasting longer than two weeks. 

But oh…container number 6. It is an extra now, like so many other things around here. No  longer needed, just a remnant of what was. You all know what I did with that container, right? I kissed it. I hugged it to my chest. Then I gingerly put it in my school crate, to take to my classroom on Monday.

As I did so, I remembered a conversation I had with Jenna’s youngest brother shortly after she went to heaven. We had told the children that they still have a little sister, and that she will always be a part of our family. Within a week or two after our return from South Africa, a teacher asked the youngest boy’s class how many siblings each child had. It was a tough question for my son. He first raised his hand to say “two”, but then he checked himself and said “three”. I will never forget his words as he recounted the incident to me. “I said three, mom”, he told me, “Because Jenna still counts.”

Yes, you still count, my muffin. Some people can’t see you, but we do. Some people think we are a “party of five” now, but we will always be six. You will always be with us, right here in our hearts.

Oi Vey!

Some gals just have no sense of timing. Tropical storm Faye is one of them. She is expected to give us a direct hit as a minor hurricane around Thursday.

This is my week y’all. This week I have to cram in: a meeting with the friend who is going to tutor the middle boy next year, a trip to the school uniform store, haircuts for the whole caboodle, a visit to the shoe store, the book store, and more. The house is gasping for a good clean, my carpets upstairs are begging for a vacuum. I need to get my classroom(s) organised for the school year. The grocery store beckons, I need to get school supplies and non-perishables.

I did run to the store to get drinking water this evening. When hurricane madness hit Florida in 2004 there were times when water flew off the shelves at an alarming rate. Since we consume plenty of water here anyway (hurricanes or no) I didn’t want to be left high and (literally) dry 🙂 .

Have you ever tasted Florida tap water?  It is enough to put you off drinking water for life! I marvelled at the sweet taste of the tap water in South Africa. I had forgotten how good it tasted, until this last trip in February.   

Anyway, off to the store I went for some store bought, decent tasting water, with two very eager and hopeful boys in tow. Ever since my mom gave them each a $20 bill, they have been champing at the bit to go shopping! They have asked me daily when we would be able to go, and those bills have been wearing a hole in the boys’ pockets. 

I didn’t want to take them, y’all. The middle boy is Mr. Decisive. He fears that he will miss out on something good if he settles on something else. A simple trip to the jiffy store for a candy bar is an exercise in patience for me, as he flip flops from one decision to another, and back again.

We went into the crowded store, and made a bee-line for the water (I’d love to tell you that there were fist fights over the water in the store but it wasn’t quite that bad) before visiting the toy aisle. The boy looked around a bit until he realised that his money had been left in the pocket of the jeans that he had been wearing before we left the house.

Poor kid. It was at this point that the hubby called me to tell me that an unexpected expense would be going off our account tonight and I had better wait to do the rest of my shopping tomorrow. I had to promise the disappointed boy that we would be back, pay for my precious cargo of water, and leave. Out of curiosity, I checked out the camping aisle before leaving. There were no flashlights left.

I suppose people remember those power outtages in 2004 vividly. I do. I remember the stickiness of my floors most of all. It wasn’t dirt-stickiness, it was the humidity that seemed to seep up from the floor and cling to your feet. The humidity clung to everything, and made the paper timeline in my homeschool classroom curl up. The heat and the inability to do normal, taken-for-granted things made tempers fray. 

Sigh. I am not ready for the world to stand still, languishing in sticky humidity while the clock keeps marching on to Monday, THE-day, the first-day-of-school day. I’ve got to have my power this week. Power to clean, power to use my computer so I can prepare my last few worksheets and do my last bit of research.

Faye, Faye, go away…(don’t) come again another day…Faye, Faye, go away, little Sumi (literally 😉 ) wants to play…

Six months today…

 

We said goodbye to you six months ago, little Jenna. We miss you today but our hearts are filled with hope and a deep peace. You have left a great void in our lives and yet we can say, without a shadow of a doubt, that God is good.

May Jesus hug and tickle and kiss you and cuddle you on his lap for us, sweet little princess.

Always your ‘mama’,

Sumi

At the airport

Going to the airport is almost worse than going to Walmart. Thankfully I have only been there twice since March of this year.

I will probably always find the memory triggers and what-if triggers at Walmart. The Barbie/doll aisle still makes me take a wistful glance, and then look the other way. The candles still beckon me to smell them but there’s no muffin who begs to sniff them too. The lobsters at the seafood counter don’t have a little Jenna to visit with anymore. I can’t pose at the check-out counter, while Jenna takes my picture with the little princess cameras on display, and tells me how beautiful I am, anymore.

But I have gone to Walmart umpteen times since February this year and I am no longer compulsively pulling out the toddler seat in the shopping cart for Jenna to sit on. I don’t stop at the little girls’ shoe displays anymore.  I press on, and do my shopping, with the inevitable thoughts of Jenna my familiar companion. It really isn’t as bad as it was in the beginning, now. I am used to it.  

I am not used to going to the airport. I am not used to walking that same route down to Departures where the little muffiny dragged her multi-colored suitcase behind her until she got tired, and her brother pitched in to help. 

I am not used to hanging around in that same Departures hall where we had lingered on the rocking chairs, unwilling to say goodbye to the half of our family that was staying behind in America. As I sat there today, unwilling to say goodbye to my mom, I remembered that we were in the very spot where Jenna’s daddy and two of her brothers saw her alive for the last time.

The boys were emotional today. Being at the airport made them miss Jenna too.

This is the last picture Jenna’s daddy took of her:

She was off on a real journey, alright. And we are on a very different journey ourselves, as a result. It is a strange journey, and one I don’t wish on anyone. Still, it is a journey that has forced us to dig deep and to find those wells of living water that God promises to sustain his people with. I can honestly say, right now, that there has been much good and much fruit on this journey already. I anticipate the future with hope. I know God is doing something eternal in our lives.

Until we see you again, muffiny…

We will celebrate the journey.

Quick hello

Well, knowing me it probably won’t be quick. I get started and then I can’t stop!

I have had a crazy, hectic, exhausting week. Monday heralded the first day of Teacher’s Training Week in preparation for the school year. I had trouble shutting my brain down to sleep the night before and haven’t had time to catch up on the lost sleep, so I have been keeping Folgers (for my South African friends, Folgers = cheap stuff coffee) in business this week.

I was stupid enough to have some gourmet coffee (NOT Folgers) last night, whilst visiting a friend (she seemed dubious and didn’t have any herself) and it kept me wide awake in the wee hours of this morning. Then, I crashed this evening without intending to (I was just supposed to lie down for a little while – you know?) and when I woke up I didn’t know if it was still evening or if it was the next morning already. 🙂

My mom’s visit is drawing to an end, tomorrow is her last full day with us. It feels like we didn’t do nearly enough things together. We never made it to the beach side park that she loves so much, and we only went to see Jenna’s grave very briefly on her birthday. I hope we will be able to go there tomorrow.

I DID manage to take my mom to see a favorite clothing store. My shopping days at Anthropologie are over for now since I have maxed out the gift card I received there last Christmas. A friend and I went on a shopping spree just before my visit to South Africa, in January. Jenna didn’t go shopping with us, but still those clothes are like relics of the carefree days before my life changed irrevocably. I had loved then, having a girly day with my friend, being pampered by the sales ladies, and having my own changing room with my name on it.

I have bagged up the one sweater I bought that day. I wore it on those cool evenings on the farm and in the African bush, with Jenna on my hip. I imagine it still smells like her.

My mom and I also visited the giant JoAnn’s store nearby where we got lost drooling over all the gorgeous fabrics and ribbons and laces and yarn. I saw the most beautiful fabric for wedding gowns at JoAnn’s and it hit me: I will never see Jenna in a wedding dress here on earth. As I walked through the fabric aisles, every bit of pink fleece and sheer organza brought with it a pang. How Jenna would have loved to bury her face in the soft velours and satins. How I would have loved to make her a fleece blanket, or a quilt, or a princess outfit, or accessories for her room with all those yards of gorgeous fabrics.

Anyway:

To update you all on my life, I am getting ready to teach Middle school History, Bible, and Journalism this year. I am excited but also aware that it is going to take a lot out of me. The school I will be teaching at has wonderful, very hands-on parents who have high expectations. That is a good thing but it can surely add pressure too. 🙂 

The journalism course is one in which I will be breaking new ground, both for me and for the school. I am a huge perfectionist when it comes to developing a study unit from scratch. I LOVE doing it, but I tend to search compulsively until I find exactly the right approach or activity for each concept that I want to teach. It can be very time consuming, and managing my time so that I can be adequately prepared for teaching and still be able to attend bible school is going to be a big challenge for me.

I have missed checking up on all my bloggery friends (that Google reader counter is way up again) and blabbing my thoughts out over here.

I wonder where my blogging will be once school starts. I might find myself bloggin’ only once in a great while, or this might become a place to regularly pour out all my random thoughts as I embrace all the changes facing me! Whoa, God wasn’t joking when he told me that he was ‘doing a new thing’ in my life!

I am both excited and a bit apprehensive about what this year holds. There will be many adjustments for our whole family. I am going to be busy. I am going to need to be organised (a challenge for me). The boys will have to take on more responsibilities around the house.

I know this though: God has ordered my steps until now and he has already gone before me to prepare my path.  I feel a bit like Moses, who said to God that if God didn’t go with him and the Israelites, then he wasn’t going to go. There’s no way I am going to be able to do this on my own. I just don’t have the goods, folks. I can only tackle the challenges before me if God is right there alongside me. I do sense that he is though, so I can take a deep breath and enter this new phase of my life with confidence, taking it one step at a time.

So much to say and so little blog

I have been too busy to write much but that doesn’t mean that I haven’t written whole blog posts in my head! Of course, now that I am sitting here at the computer they are all gone and so I will just let my fingers follow this random flow of thoughts over the keyboard. Hopefully this post will make some kind of sense by the time I am done. 🙂

Our camping trip was fun, but WET! It was nice to play in the water with our friends but when you get out you want to be able to dry off! Being back in my nice, dry, fragrant, un-sandy, tempur-pedic bed was bliss!

On our last day at the spring we saw a little girl who resembled Jenna uncannily. She wore the same color bathing suit, had the same chubby cheeks and curly hair, she even flicked her hair out of her face like Jenna used to. The only difference was her eyes, they were brown and not as striking as Jenna’s were. I could not help staring. I paddled out just far enough for the differences between her features and Jenna’s to fade, and tried to pretend it was really my muffin sitting there on the steps next to the water. Hubby stared too and we shared a few moments of sheer aching to have the muffinny with us again. It would have been so wonderful to see her and her bestest buddy Joseph running around at the campground together.

An acute sense of missing her has remained with me since. Oh she was such a precious little joy-and-laughter-maker in our house. I miss telling her how delicious she is and asking her if I could have just a little taste of her. She’d laugh and tell me: “I am not food!” I would beg her to have just a little taste anyway, and she would offer me her arm, giggling. I would nibble on it and proclaim that it was just as I thought: she was yummily delicious! Sometimes she would ‘taste’ me back and tell me I was yummy too. 🙂

Oh, I just miss all those cute toddler games and cuddles and snuggles today.

I do not know how I would have coped without the certainty that Jenna is still alive and well and living with Jesus. I look at her pictures sometimes and it does not feel like I am looking at someone who is no more.  Her life continues, in another place that I cannot see right now but that is just as real as the world I am so familiar with. That gives me such hope! When I kissed her little cheeks and hands goodbye there in the hospital room it was not the end. I will see my muffinny again.

Which reminds me…I received a very valid question via email from a reader and instead of answering her privately, I thought I would blog about it. She wrote:

In the many blogs I’ve read of children that are born and then die, I find that there is often such a focus on the child in heaven, their healing, their joy etc. It seems that the fact the God is in heaven doesn’t really matter anymore.  It seems as though they see God as just another care giver to their children, their children’s healer.  Why is it that God is no longer the appealing part of heaven but their children?  How is it that what is taught in scripture about heaven – where we will no longer know husband and wife, children or any earthly type of relationship -is forgotten?  Why is it that the worship of God is no longer as important as being reunited with their child?

I think this is a good and honest question. I don’t believe it was meant judgmentally, and I think it was asked in an effort to understand something. I am assuming that if one reader asks this question, there are probably many more out there with the same thoughts, who are afraid to voice them.

I thought of a few points regarding this. Firstly, I want to remind my reader that many of the blogs about losing a child are attempts to work through that loss and the blogger will naturally write from that perspective. A blog post is usually just a mere snapshot of what the blogger is feeling at that precise point in time. There are so many thoughts, emotions, and words that do not make it onto the blog page. Just because the blogger writes about their longing to see their child again does not mean that they do not look forward to worshipping God in heaven.

I also think that this is an area where God has tender understanding towards these dear mommies. He knows our frames and that we are dust. He knows how bound we tend to be to the things that we can see, feel, and touch, and how hard it is for us to relate to a world that is unseen, often unfelt, and untouchable. We had our babies here with us, to kiss and smell and hug and now they are so profoundly gone. It is so natural for us to want back what we have lost. It makes us look forward to the restoration that will surely come in heaven.

Of course Jesus will be the focal point in heaven. He is so full of light and glory and majesty, we will find ourselves drawn to him like a moth to a flame. We will be unable to resist him! We will see our loved ones and it will be a huge joy but seeing Jesus face to face will overshadow that joy a million times. But as a mommy with a precious little one in heaven I have two things to look forward to – seeing Jenna, and looking into the glorious eyes of my heavenly bridegroom with an unveiled face for the rest of eternity.

I looked up what the bible had to say about us no longer having any earthly type of relationship. The bible does mention that we will no longer marry or be given into marriage in heaven, but is silent on the matter of children and other relationships. I believe that we will not marry in heaven because earthly marriage is a picture of something heavenly – the marriage between Jesus and his bride. Marriage is an exclusive thing, a contract made between two parties, and there is no room for another person in the mix.  When we are married to Jesus in heaven there will no longer be room for the kind of exclusive intimacy that we shared with our earthly spouses. Jesus will be our all in all.

This does not mean however, that all kinds of earthly relationships will be abolished automatically. I believe we will still know our spouses, our friends, our children, and enjoy sweet fellowship with them with Jesus at the center of it all.

As I pondered my reader’s question, it occurred to me that God himself is the most relational being I know. Everything he does is through relationships. He exists in relationship. The three persons of the God-head are in perfect relationship with one another. All of God’s dealings towards man is done with one goal in mind and that is for God to have a relationship with man.

God, the big, and mighty, awesome God, walked with puny Adam in the garden. He called Abraham his friend. He talked to Moses face to face. He uses words like child, sister, spouse, to talk of his chosen people and he calls himself their husband. He calls David a man after his own heart. Why? Despite all his frailties and failures David understood one thing. He knew how to be real with God. David had a single-minded, unwavering desire to be in relationship with God, and God loved that about him.

In Isaiah God says he would make his home with those who have a humble and a contrite heart. In the new testament he calls himself Emmanuel, God with us. In the book of Revelation he is knocking at the door of our hearts, longing for us to admit him into the inner sanctum of our lives so that we could sup together.

The bible does not only tell us how much God wants us to be in relationship with him, it also tells us what a blessing it is to be in right relationship with one another. (Psalm 133) God talks about his church as a body, who needs to work together as a team to get the job done. 1 Cor 13 talks about love being the greatest thing, and love needs relationships to express itself in. The work of the ministry is carried out in relationship. I could go on and on but this blog is getting long!!

All of this points me to one thing: my precious, relational God who values relationships so highly and made me in his image to value them too, will surely honor the relationship I have with my little girly girl. It might not be the same as it was here on earth, in fact I have no idea how old Jenna will be in heaven or what our relationship will look like.  But I know that she will always be my little girl and I am certain that we will still know one another and have precious times together in the ages to come. You can bank on it!