Happy Birthday, Squared!

Today is a very special day in our household — not one, but TWO birthdays shared by Kathy and our ‘caboose’, Sarah.

I spent my time on the train today poring over old photos of our family. I built this slideshow to show how loved Sarah is by our family and by her many friends; there were so many photos, I had to limit this first presentation to 2002-2005. Hopefully I’ll be able to post more in the upcoming days.

You can switch to full-screen mode by clicking on the icon at the bottom right of the slideshow.

Sarah turns twelve today, and Kathy turns, well, a few years older than twelve. Both of them keep our family young with their joy and enthusiasm. Truly, their birthday is one of the high points of the year — and no less this year with the lovely summer weather we have been enjoying. And of course, Kathy and Sarah share a love for celebration and traditions, which makes it even more fun.

One tradition I started (in our home, if you do something once, it is halfway toward being a ‘tradition’) with Rachel was the “Twelve things I love about ____” blog post, so I must not be remiss in telling these twelve things about Sarah.

Twelve things I love about Sarah

  1. She has great childlike faith.
  2. Whenever Sarah is sad, or worried about something, she usually confides in Kathy or me. Since we try to be a praying family, our solution is often to pray for her. It often impresses me that Sarah is comforted by our prayers for her, knowing that the matter has been brought to God’s throne, and it is settled. She knows her Bible and dearly loves Jesus, and so she doesn’t seem distressed if there is no immediate relief from the sorrow or concern, but faithfully trusts that God will answer our prayers.

  3. Sarah is very persistent.
  4. In less than two weeks, Sarah will complete her fourth year of IXL math (although she has accomplished this in only 2.5 years). In this time she has completed 41,700 problems, many of them quite difficult. I require my kids to reach 100% mastery on each IXL skill, and they are not allowed to use calculators until they reach high school math. Sarah steadily works away at her math, and I am very proud of her.

  5. She observes and doesn’t rush into trouble.
  6. Like her oldest brother (Joshua), Sarah has the personality of an observer. She doesn’t like to leap into new things without gathering information, and she avoids a lot of grief (and some sin) by being a bit more careful about what she does and says. I really admire this trait in her.

  7. Sarah is a loyal friend.
  8. It is very interesting, watching Sarah navigate the complicated and sometimes drama-filled waters of friendship as she enters middle school. Over the years, my youngest daughter has had many good friends, and she tends to those relationships carefully and loyally. She tries hard to avoid gossip, and she is willing to rebuke a good friend when necessary.

  9. She is tender-hearted.
  10. Sarah takes after her mom in mercy, and she is careful of the feelings of others, even when they are callous toward her feelings. Time and again I have seen her exercise compassion to friends and relatives, even when they didn’t deserve it.

  11. Sarah is joyful.
  12. Sit quietly in the same room with her, and you’ll soon hear her singing whatever song is playing in the sound track of her life. Sarah is seldom gloomy or sour, but instead the joy of the Lord flows out of her, usually in song.

  13. She is patient.
  14. As the youngest child in our family, Sarah receives more than her fair share of criticism and correction, but she often bears it cheerfully and simply waits for her turn, and isn’t unduly upset if she never gets a turn at all.

  15. Sarah is content.
  16. Some people are high-maintenance, but not my twelve-year-old. Leave her alone and she’ll soon find something to do with her time, whether reading or writing an email to one of her friends. She doesn’t demand to be constantly entertained by others, but quietly expresses herself in creative ways.

  17. She is crafty.
  18. Not the devious kind of ‘crafty’, but creative and clever with her hands. Sarah is always drawing or making something beautiful, and she doesn’t seem to mind if it doesn’t turn out perfectly. Her mind seems to constantly produce new ideas for her hands to execute.

  19. Sarah is submissive to parental authority.
  20. Some children resist and oppose their parents, assuming that they know best, or suspecting that the parent does not seek the best for the child. But Sarah trusts and respects us as her parents, and takes it to heart when we correct or rebuke her. It is a delight to parent a child who trusts in this way, and of course it makes me want all the more to be trust-worthy and faithful as her Dad.

  21. She is generous.
  22. Sometimes the youngest in a family will seem a little spoiled, and occasionally greedy, but not Sarah. She loves to buy presents for her siblings and is unstinting in spending her money on them. I am proud of the way that Sarah shares and gives to friends and family so generously.

  23. Sarah is a good communicator and an excellent listener.
  24. I am often struck by the maturity and wisdom she exercises in communicating with friends and family members. But Sarah is also skilled in patiently listening to others.

Now that I finished, I went back and read the blog I wrote about Rachel — it is interesting to see how many things overlap, between my two girls. I guess it is no accident — after all, they roomed together for many years, and Rachel has faithfully taught Sarah many of her strongest virtues.

Happy birthday to both of you, Sarah and Kathy!

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Summer Joy

Today is one of those glorious summer mornings when everything looks like it is freshly-minted from the hand of God. The sun laughs in a cloudless blue sky, casting its warm light across green lawns and trees, painting everything with crisp new edges and joyfully washing away the shadows. Even shabby, man-made buildings gain a fresh luster from the golden bath of new light, as the day fairly explodes with promise and hope.

Waiting for my train to arrive ...

Waiting for my train to arrive …

Of course, I’ll spend the day in a beige, cloth-covered cubicle, 25 feet from the nearest window, staring into computer screens at webserver configurations. But for the next 90 minutes, my eyes are free to feast on the beauty of God’s creative brushstrokes and His masterful use of light and color on this canvas of Earth. Mount Rainier looms in hazy majesty to the east, peeking out from behind every obstruction as if to remind me of God’s omnipresence and the sheer size of His glory.

Even downtown Seattle looks fresh and new.

Even downtown Seattle looks fresh and new.

On days like this, my heart sings with gratitude to my Creator, and I blink away tears at His goodness to me. Each breath feels like a priceless gift, and the mundane falls away as I gaze on the smallest hint of what God has in store for me, when I go to live with Him forever.

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Happy Easter

After a beautiful (early) Easter service at church, we piled into the van and set off for the Duckabush. Time to spend the day with Tim’s parents. Such a treat for us! Family time, delicious food and literally NO WORK for me as Tim’s mom did all the prep work and cooking. Yum!

Can you say SPOILED!

I’m so SPOILED! Thank you, G’ma, for doing ALL the cooking!

We had a wonderful family lunch with lamb and hot cross buns, a huge salad and a platter piled high of vegetables.

First they work, and then they nap!

First they work, and then they nap!

The girls helped Grandma with lunch while David set the table and provided some dinner music.

Thank you, David.  The table looks good!

Thank you, David. The table looks good!

Play on, David!

Play on, David!

Who would like some lamb?

Who would like some lamb?

After lunch we relaxed. Daniel picked out a sad movie for us to watch. I think I fell asleep on the couch at one point. Tim helped his dad with computer work. It was a perfect way to end the Easter weekend. That evening we gathered with some other friends and celebrated Jesus’ Resurrection with a mini-drama and Easter hymn singalong.

Daniel starred as Thaddeus and David as Cleopas.

Daniel starred as Thaddeus and David as Cleopas.

On the Road to Emmaus, the boys (aka Thaddeus and Cleopas) met Jesus (played by Tim).

Tim has the beard, that pretty much qualified him to play Jesus in our drama.

Tim has the beard, that pretty much qualified him to play Jesus in our drama.

In between acts we sang Easter hymns. Some I knew (Christ the Lord is Risen Today, There is a Redeemer, Crown Him with Many Crowns) and several I didn’t (Only Believe, Jesus the Very Thought of Thee, and I Gave My Life for Thee). Obviously I have not been spending enough time listening to traditional hymns.

Dessert time!

Dessert time!

Sarah, Rachel LOVE seeing Tirzah and Sharon!

Sarah, Rachel LOVE seeing Tirzah and Sharon!

Afterwards we celebrated with more delicious treats and some time with friends. It was a nice break from the busyness of life and a chance to reflect on the wonder of Christ’s gift to us – conquering death and offering us LIFE FOREVER!

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Spring Weirdness

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so three pictures ought to be worth at least a short story. I must put something on our blog, or people like Joshua will start to leave snide comments and send subtle emails.

This first picture speaks for itself:

Daniel got a can of whipped cream for his birthday ... so of course, this is how he uses it.  I'm not sure why he needed to lay across the kitchen island to fully enjoy it ...

Daniel got a can of whipped cream for his birthday … so of course, this is how he uses it. I’m not sure why he needed to drape himself across the kitchen island to fully enjoy it …

Last weekend, Kathy and I attended a fund-raiser dinner for some friends who are going away for a year’s worth of training in ministering to deaf teens, and we sat with Tung and Debbie and John and Shari.

Tung's jealousy of my beard continues to rage.

Tung’s bitter jealousy of my beard continues to rage.

Little did Tung know, I was prepared to defend myself.

It takes two to tango.

It takes two to tango, or possibly to foxtrot.

This month just keeps getting weirder and weirder.


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Daniel the Driving Ace

No matter how you might resist or resent, the very nature of time propels it forward relentlessly, grinding away like sandpaper over the surface of your life. Some days pass slowly, as though an idle three-year old is gently wiping with an oily rag, while other weeks and even months disappear in a pile of sawdust as if someone is vigorously working with industrial coarse sandpaper. Of course, you don’t know if your life is better represented by a four-inch slab of oak, or a quarter-inch veneer of soft pine; either way, the true grain of your heart is revealed, even if you do pick up a few nicks and stains along the way.

Not my actual sander

Not my actual sander

When Kathy and I were first married, we (like most parents) had no idea what we were getting into, or how quickly it would happen. It seems only a few months ago, Daniel was driving his little tricycle up and down the ramp of our moving van, laughing hilariously, while Granddad loaded and arranged the boxes for our 1999 move to Washington State. After what seemed only a year or two had passed, he’d graduated to a regular bike and was joining the family for a bike ride.

Family bike rides were always challenging, although David and Sarah had a pretty good gig.

Family bike rides were always challenging, although David and Sarah had a pretty cushy setup.

Suddenly we look around, and Daniel is taking Driver’s Education classes, practicing his driving with our car at every opportunity. Suddenly Daniel is scheduling drives on the interstate with instructors at the Driving School (better them than me, I suppose!).

What has happened, to transform this tiny rascal, who needed help to climb onto the seat of a car, into a six foot, three inch behemoth of a young man? Somewhere along the way, someone’s been using a belt-sander on the years of my life.

Daniel has always been a bit of a dare-devil, risking life and limb on almost a daily basis in his quest to know himself and his limits. Voted unanimously by the members of our family as ‘Most Likely to Spend Time in the Emergency Room’, Daniel lives his life with a joyful exuberance and a willingness to take risks that would make any movie action hero take three Advil and find somewhere quiet to lie down.

Why use the steps, when you can jump?

Why use the steps, when you can jump?

“Daniel is his own stunt man,” people have been known to observe.
Just a few months ago, Daniel and his friend Zachary went for a bike ride in a park, near our house, with David joining them, presumably as their chaperon or keeper. Returning several hours later, they exhibited enough scrapes and bruises to rival Lewis and Clark, having wrecked one of the bikes and damaged another. Apparently they tried to ride their bikes down a cliff, and even sensible David was drawn into the fracas.

Daniel and his stunt crew at Fort Clark in 2005.

Daniel and his stunt crew at Fort Clark in 2005. The tongue is optional, for this particular stunt.

Strangely, Daniel is a careful and competent driver. When I ride in the passenger seat, I don’t feel afraid, even though he is still a very new driver. He seems to have a steady hand on the wheel, doesn’t drift around in the lane, and doesn’t over-compensate when he makes a mistake. He brakes with plenty of room to spare, and conscientiously obeys all posted speed limits, unlike his father.

Daniel seems very natural in the driver's seat.

Daniel seems very natural in the driver’s seat.

But he really likes to drive. Every time we go anywhere, he asks if he can drive. The problem is, after thirty-two years, I still want to drive, and it is hard to give up the wheel.

When I was Daniel’s age, I spent every available moment on the road. I would cheerfully volunteer for any errand that involved driving, and any excuse would do, to get me behind the wheel. My best friend (Phil) lived almost 40 minutes away, yet I saw him at least three times a week.

Sometime around my junior year in high school, my parents bought a little copper-colored hatchback Chevette, so that my Mom would have a car to run errands when my Dad took the family car to work. As it turned out, my Mom rarely drove it. I drove that little car into the ground; by the time my parents gave the car to my brother as a graduation/wedding gift, it was a well-used car.

So far, we've held off on buying Daniel a car.  Somehow, we just never seem to get around to it.

So far, we’ve held off on buying Daniel a car. Somehow, we just never seem to get around to it.

I remember one time, I was especially troubled by my love life (or lack thereof), and I decided to drive around the beltway of Washington, D.C. (about 65 miles) to give myself time to think. With gas under $1 a gallon, my world was the open road, and that little Chevette became a familiar sight on the highways and byways of Northern Virginia.

Dan, on his way into the Department of Licensing, to get his learner's permit.

Dan, on his way into the Department of Licensing, to get his learner’s permit.

I never have understood why my parents were so generous with that car, because all this was happening during a time when I was being especially hateful to them. Maybe they saw the car as cheap therapy – it is certain that driving did seem to cool my blood and restore my soul in some way.

Celebrating the acquisition of a shiny new learner's permit.  Daniel was always very shy and retiring.

Celebrating the acquisition of a shiny new learner’s permit. Daniel was always very shy and retiring.

So I understand why Daniel wants to drive, and I fully expect that if he ever gets his license, he will disappear into the wilds of Western Washington, if he can find a way. As I recall, Joshua drove off to ROTC pretty cheerfully, most days, in my little Honda, and Rachel zips off to Pierce nearly every day in her little Kia.

As soon as Daniel gets some kind of job, I’ve told him he can get his license. He’ll need a job, since I require my high-school children to pay part of the ridiculously-expensive auto insurance that kicks in when I add them to my policy. Here in Washington, a 16-year-old boy adds about $120 a month to our policy. I suppose the insurance company may expect that the apple might not fall far from the tree — I had seven accidents (most of them fender-benders with a work car) in my first year of driving — one before I even had my license.

Let’s see if we can avoid a repetition of that particular history, OK, Dan?

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The musings and ravings of a bloggart family