Wednesday, December 30, 2009

snow and soup


Just when you thought you'd stepped on the last Lego--for a while anyway--the company comes up with minute pieces that fit together painstakingly, like model airplane building, but without the glue.  Peter woke up and went right to work this morning, building this little car, and some misc. things to go with it.  Don't you love it when they can follow directions all by themselves, and be entertained for an hour or more?

Here he is, still in jammies, and getting right to it.

Taking photos of this sweetie is hard work!  She never stays still for long.



Northeast Ohio finally got some snow!

You want to do some shoveling, you say?  Wonderful idea!


Hot turkey soup to warm up the snow bunnies, and cap off a busy day.

Momma has been a busy bee, setting the house right after the holidays.  Talk to you later!

Monday, December 28, 2009

family pics and crafts


I added pictures to Mary's B-day post--published last night.  Here are more pics of the family.  Baby was napping for most of this photo shoot.  We'll have to post more of her later.  She has unusual coloring.  I have only a few outfits that seem to flatter her (reds, hot pinks, black--she has brown eyes, light brown hair, and a pale face.  Her hand-me-downs from Mary don't work too well (too many lavenders and pale pinks).  Mary has medium-blue eyes that have a yellowish ring in the center, blond hair, and less pale skin.

I find it very hard to look at pictures of me with my kids.  At 43, I could easily be mistaken for their grandma. How I wish I had been a Christian in my twenties, so that God could have blessed me with a husband then!  Twice I was engaged in my twenties, and got cold feet before the planning commenced.  I have spiritual tools now to make a marriage last--definitely didn't then.  In this, as in all things, we have to accept God's will.  Hard to swallow sometimes.

My husband is 8 years older than me.  You can see that the Pennsylvania and Delaware weather, and his genetics, were kinder.  He looks about my age here.  I lived in San Diego, Central CA, Guam, Sicily, England, and was born in Germany.  Both my dad and step-dad were in the military.  We stayed put in San Diego during my 8th grade through high school years.  Then I went to college at UCSD, in La Jolla, Ca, which is in San Diego County.

A few weeks before Christmas Paul said to me, "Mommy, all I want for Christmas is that gingerbread house from Walmart.  The one for ten dollars.  That's all I want."

A week later, when I had ten dollars, I went to Walmart looking for the gingerbread house.  After searching for thirty minutes in all the places we'd seen it over the last month, I started to panic--they were obviously sold out.  Just as I decided on a homemade, graham-cracker gingerbread house, I spotted the coveted house at the check-out stand, on sale for $7.

Now the boys were so excited, that they couldn't wait until we were available to help.  I am not one to insist that every craft project be teacher led.  I rarely lead projects, as a matter of fact.

This is what they were able to do without help.  Possibly, they didn't knead the frosting for a whole minute, as the directions indicated.  Hard to say, but the sides wouldn't stay up, and without a frosting tip set (I have to get one of those!) the frosting was out of control.

Paul was in tears over this fiasco.  I felt terrible for him, but it was a lesson for both of them--patience pays off.  My heart isn't so hard that I didn't buy and wrap up for Christmas, some graham crackers and some candies. In a few days, after I recover from our other projects, we'll try again.

My boys and I love snowman crafts!  We do a lot of them--sometimes even the same ones every year.  They used felt for scarves, black construction paper for hats, and more paint for snow drops falling down, and for some snow around the bottom.  Finished ones are hanging in the playroom.  I'm a hurried, lazy blogger.  I'll take them down and get photos later.

This wasn't glued down yet (use tacky glue).  Use a jumbo stick for the middle, and cut the regular-sized sticks in varying lengths, to make the shape of an evergreen.  Paint with green acrylic paint, and decorate with sequins.  Use a hot glue gun to put a loop at the top for hanging on the tree, or put a magnet strip on the back to use it as a fridge magnet.  The AWANA teacher did this same craft, but she used foam cut into tree shapes.

My boys love crafts!  This is what they do to my dining room, when they're in a crafty mood.  They name "crafts" as their second favorite subject in school.  I only pretend to know anything about crafts.  God help me!  Thank God for crafty moms, whose ideas I steal from the Internet, and from magazines.  The stick tree was featured in Parents magazine--ran across it at a doctor's office.








Sunday, December 27, 2009

Mary's B-day post



Mary had a birthday on the 14th.  This is based on "The Important Book" by Margaret Wise Brown.

The important thing about Mary is that she loves her family
It's true that she loves to use big words
And that she jumps off the furniture
And that she applies gobs of toothpaste
But the important thing about Mary is that she loves her family

The important thing about Mary is that she loves dresses ("Oh! Beautifee!")
It's true that she is tomboyish
And that she rarely plays with dolls
And that she's been known to climb cupboards looking for chocolate
But the important thing about Mary is that she loves dresses

The important thing about Mary is that she declares her love
It's true that she gives tight hugs
And that she plays ball with her brothers
And that she likes hot oatmeal
But the important thing about Mary is that she declares her love

The important thing about Mary is that she's the love of our lives
It's true that she eats flour, sugar, salt, and butter when we bake (yuck!)
And that she misses her brothers when they're gone
And that she rates Sunday church as awesome (jumping in the air as she says "awesome!")
But the important thing about Mary is that she's the love of our lives

The important thing about Mary is that she loves her sister Beth
It's true that she lets Beth climb on her
And that she kisses Beth's head
And that she is sometimes jealous of Beth
But the important thing about Mary is that she loves her sister Beth

The important thing about Mary is that she's a curious mix of independence and vulnerbility
It's true that she seeks her blanket after disappointments
And that she tries new things readily
And that she likes Momma close by
But the important thing about Mary is that she's a curious mix of independence and vulnerbility

The important thing about Mary is that now she's 3!
It's true that her favorite tales are "The Gingerbread Man" and "The Three Little Pigs"
And that she thinks cake is "delectable"
And that she likes to peel Clementine orange by herself
But the important thing about Mary is that now she's 3!

Happy Birthday, Sweet Mary!  Momma loves you so!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

receiving hearts

Last night we attended a beautiful, music-enhanced candlelight service, at which our pastor spoke about the meaning of Christmas.   Wrestling with Beth in the foyer, I didn't catch very much.  I can't wait to sit through an entire sermon, holding my husband's hand!  Can you mommies relate?

On the way home my husband filled me in on the sermonette.  An inspirational story was included to illustrate the point that Christmas is about giving--not about receiving.

Right there, I burst into tears.

You see, I too, thought Christmas was primarily about giving.  And the last two Christmases, we've done more receiving than giving.  Far more.  I struggle so much with this!

Earlier this month, I decided to do a large-scale cookie giving project.  It  failed.  The children, too young for such an ambitious, nearly-daily pursuit, would have felt neglected if I'd gone through with it.  Just getting a hot meal on the table is hard enough around here, without adding constant baking to the mix.

I decided to come up with other ways to give, but I only managed to have a 10-year-old cousin over for cookie baking, and an 8-year-old homeschooling friend and her father over for dinner.

When Christmas Eve arrived, I faced my failure--I hadn't given as I'd desired.  I see now, in retrospect, that I was trying to "make up" for all the receiving we had done.

All week I tried to get three different kinds of cookies baked for our Pastor and his family, to be given on Christmas Eve.  Sick kids, runny noses, laundry, schooling, and all the rest got in the way.  No cookies.

So two hours before church, I thought maybe pumpkin muffins for their breakfast might be nice, and maybe faster.  I had to ignore the children and get right to it.

The girls were fussy and restless and still sick--not a fun scenario.

Forty-five minutes before church, I tasted one of the muffins, to make sure they were giving-worthy.  Not, people.  Not worthy at all.  Too dry, and not sweet enough.  Lousy recipe.

Frustrated but resigned, I gave up and got the troops ready for church.  We went empty-handed.  I'll work on his muffins for New Years.

As I paced the foyer, I decided to try one more way to give, this Christmas season.  A woman from our church had open-heart surgery in late fall, and still, she felt weak.  She used to watch Mary in the church nursery while I helped in AWANA, and I really wanted to do something for her.  When church let out, I tracked her down and asked if I could clean her house.  Now, I realize this seems ridiculous, since I don't even have time to clean my own house.  But whatever..I felt desperate.

Her daughter, residing only eight minutes away from her, had it all covered.  She didn't need my help.

Now, changing scenes here.  We're back to the drive home in the car, after church.  As I said, my husband filled me in on the sacrificial-giving story the pastor relayed, and I burst into tears.

Me:  "Where does that leave people like us, who can't give? What meaning does Christmas have for us?  All we do is receive."

Husband:  "You give all the time, Honey.  You give of yourself to your family.  You are doing fine to just focus on that.  Besides, Pastor didn't mention this tonight, but Christmas is also about receiving.  Jesus came so that we could receive him and have eternal life.  Without our willingness to receive, we are nothing."

I absorbed that, and my heart rested some.  Then tonight, the full weight of my husband's teaching penetrated my heart.

I can't complete this story without telling you how we've been blessed.   Perhaps it will encourage you in your own situation, in some way.

Three relatives gave us money for Christmas; all of it went to delinquent bills.  I dread telling them that, as they intended it to be for the children.  While I feel very bad about this situation, the children are spoiled, in my opinion--they are not to be pitied, believe me.  They have more than enough, and we have no room for more toys.  The church gave them two gifts each and a stocking, and a cousin, who loves Christmas and buys for everyone, gave them gifts.  And at the last minute on Christmas Eve, a gift card arrived, allowing my husband to pick out a few things to add to their Christmas-morning joy.  He had tears in his eyes as he prepared to brave Christmas Eve crowds.  Always related to fatherhood, tears appear in his eyes about three or four times a year.  Earlier in the week, he mentioned his sorrow about not being able to pick out something of his own choosing, for each of his children.

The rest of that gift card means we'll have plenty of holiday food--which is another blessing for my dear husband.  Holidays are about food for my Honey, lean though he is--courtesy of high metabolism.

Busy but blessed.  That describes our day.  We were alone--just our little ones and us.  It was frenzied, with the holiday cooking and no relatives around to play with the kids, but we managed to enjoy each other, still.  The boys, brushing their teeth tonight, said they were sad Christmas was over.  They told me they had a wonderful day, and they hugged me.  I felt so blessed by their comments.  We're so well cared for!

Each time someone gave to us this Christmas, I knew God had something to do with it.  The timing of each generous act tells a story in itself.  God will never leave us or forsake us.  Always, he will provide.  He knows the hearts and hopes of little children (and big ones), and he doesn't disappoint.  Potential existed for my children to experience disappointment, but God didn't allow it.

Let us all open our hearts, and receive his gifts, unashamedly.  For my sweet husband is right, Christmas is also about receiving.

This has been my best Christmas.  My heart-knowledge of God grew exponentially, as I opened myself to receive--not with shame, but with thanksgiving.

Merry Christmas, Dear Friends!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

musings and updates

My Beth didn't cough as frequently after 2 a.m., thankfully.  She won't be needing to see her doctor for now. Daytime finds her energetic and mostly happy, wanting to climb on virtually everything in sight.  Over the phone her doctor indicated that colds can last three weeks, without complications.

First-time obedience training continues around here, modeled loosely after the Raising Godly Tomatoes website.  Staying focused on that awesome task takes a good deal of discipline on my part.  I had to stop myself mid-sentence today, while standing at the dryer, folding clothes.  It was my custom to give directions from whatever room my chores dictated.  I refrained today, and finished folding quickly, before going back to the children and giving directions.

They are doing well for the most part; arguing has lessened considerably already.  However, when my mind gets to wandering during the day, I'll fail to notice--until after the fact--that someone has slipped in a complaint before complying.  Definitely, my focus is essential and determines how quickly things turn around, eventually allowing me to enjoy my children ALL THE TIME.

Many different scenarios swirl around my head for solutions to the laundry problem (it takes up A LOT of my time).  Is there a way to manage it so that our day is not interrupted as frequently?  I've concluded the answer is no, for now.  Keeping up is essential--it will remain a disruption until the older children can wash and process their own loads ( within two years).

As I work on reforming my parenting, the issue of television comes up in my mind frequently.  We have taken TV away from the children several times over the years.  My most visual child, Paul, finds this difficult for a few days, but then adjusts accordingly.  Each time we've done it, however, something has come up, stretching us as parents and leading to television's return (morning sickness, initial job loss and accompanying fear, colicky babies, chronic migraines).  I simply hate the television, because it dumbs down my parenting, as well as their intellects.  Okay, PBS has two math/science programs that really help my boys (CyberChase, Fetch), but the number of repeated shows makes for some wasted time.

Increasingly, I want to sell the TV and just work out the accompanying issues, but my husband won't go for it--college sports are a big draw, even though he usually tapes the games and then never finds time to watch them.  He's under a lot of stress, so now isn't the time to talk about it.

Breaking down the television issue further, I see it's a matter of low expectations on my part.  I assume that without the couple hours of TV they get (1 hour morning, 1 hour afternoon), they would be rambunctious and bored, often getting into wrestling matches and requiring frequent discipline.  There's some truth to this, but using an exercise video, I hope to give them a daily movement class.  Winter temperatures complicate the need-to-move issue here in Ohio, especially for families who lack funds for gym memberships and sports programs.

Every parent has a different situation at home in terms of child spacing, and the level of support enjoyed from family and friends.  In days past, support was more of a given; moms and dads had opportunities to recharge that simply don't exist now.  If your kids watch two hours of TV, or four hours, I'm not judging you.  I've been there without support and my chronic migraines have made for some interesting days.

I record my thoughts on television here only to work toward a solution or schedule, so that it soon becomes a very small part of their lives.  I'm not there yet--just evaluating and reevaluating for now.  The main thing is that I teach them to use their time wisely, for godly, healthy pursuits.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Beth

My Beth had a sinus infection in October, following influenza.  This surprised me, as none of my other babies had any bacterial infections.  However, they never suffered from influenza either; secondary infections are common with flu.

She now has symptoms of another sinus infection, this time following a common cold.  I am perplexed.  Her iron level went up to normal in October, and it should be even higher now.  She takes in a lot of breast milk in a twenty-four-hour period, so she should be fighting infections better than this.

I hate for him to put her on another antibiotic, but the symptoms are unmistakable, and neglecting a sinus problem is dangerous (there could be brain involvement when left untreated).  Hopefully, he isn't on vacation tomorrow.

Doing some reading tonight, I learned that in order to prevent sinus problems, children should sit in a steamy bathroom twice a day for fifteen minutes each, followed by nose suctioning or blowing.  I will certainly be doing that from now on, when she gets colds. I'm even thinking of buying a steam vaporizer, to replace the cool mist humidifier I have in her room.  In the past I worried about burns with these machines, but they are better for preventing sinus problems.

She didn't let me sleep much last night, and unfortunately tonight isn't looking good either.  Posting might be sporadic until she gets better.

I'll probably be back here before Christmas, but just in case, I wanted to wish all of you a very Merry Christmas!  It has been a pleasure getting to know some of you this year, and sharing this mothering journey with you! May God bless you in your mothering, and in your marriages.

Love,
Christine

Sunday, December 20, 2009

observations & revelations

The family is at church while Momma stays home with little Beth, whose snot nasal mucous lingers.  Asleep now, she will nevertheless sense my writing and awaken shortly.  Okay, a bit of sarcasm there.  Teething and mucousing run my life lately.  Reading in health manuals, you'd expect mucous to end within ten days.  I have two children who defy medical journals, producing mucous for seventeen days on the nose (pun intended).  No more, no less.

Sweet.

As I readied the troops for church, the difference physical proximity makes in the area of discipline and training again struck me.   I used it as a teacher tool, yet somehow it slipped my radar early on in my parenting.  Unfortunate lapse.  Yelling is often precipitated by parenting from another room--children are slower to obey a far-off voice, leading to parental anger.  Managing calmness now, I sense proximity as the stabilizer.

Homeschooling friends join us for dinner this evening, so the colossal cutout-cookie mess made during yesterday's playdate beckons me.  Why, oh why, did I sweep and mop prior to that glorious occasion?  What was I thinking?  It all begs repeating, along with the vacuuming.

Peter and Paul don't know it yet, but vacuuming and sweeping duties commence for them shortly--after a training period, and especially before playdates.  A revision of standards occurred, boys.  You're capable of much more than I previously surmised.

Your wives will thank me.

Delegate.  Delegate.  Delegate.  I can do it.  Yes I can.

My new chant.

day one

So, are you wondering how it went today, on day one of reformed parenting?  How did my "tomatoes" survive the new me?

Here are the juicy (pun intended) details.

First off, I let them know that I had been praying about our parenting, and that God had given me some wisdom.  I started with the changes I needed to make, and explained it like this:  Momma wasn't going to yell or complain anymore, as those things showed that her heart wasn't right.  Momma was going to be cheerful in her parenting, and be generous with her time, her words, and her affection.

Then, I explained the changes they would make.  When a child doesn't obey with cheerfulness, or argues, complains, or whines, that shows a problem with the heart.  It means that the heart is full of rebellion and disrespect, rather than love.  Just because many children do these things, doesn't make them the right things.

Next, I took their little faces in my hands, and gently stroked their cheeks and planted a kiss on them.  While still holding their faces, I asked them to show me a cheerful face.  I told them that is what I wanted to see when a direction was given, whether they liked the direction or not.  I would ask with cheerfulness, and they would obey with cheerfulness.

They then went on their merry ways, and I stayed as close to them as possible.  No more did I attempt to parent them from another room.  If a diaper was being changed in one room, I waited until I was done, and could be in the same room with them, before giving a direction.  I needed to be present and watchful to notice attitudes, so I could follow through immediately with praise or with correction.

As we went through the day, I didn't let anything slip. Each time they tried to argue (or complain) their way out of following a direction, I went over to them right away, took their faces in my hands, gently stroked their cheeks, and said what I wanted them to repeat, "I would be happy to, Mommy."  They had to say it with a cheerful voice, or continue to do it over and over until cheerfulness was present, in face and voice tone.

If they weren't forthcoming with cheerfulness and stayed in rebellion, or walked away and then made a huffy sound, I slapped a hand with one solid tap (not to make for a sore hand, however).  Then we started over and tried it again, until they submitted and did it cheerfully.  Another hand tap wasn't made for the same incident.  We just continued to do the repeating, until the desired response was given.

I made sure I was cheerful throughout the day, even though I had a time crunch in getting the house ready for a 2 p.m. cookie baking/decorating playdate with my cousin's ten-year-old daughter.  It was a delightful time, by the way!

I also chose today to begin reforming mealtime mayhem.  Meals weren't pretty around here.  The first thing I changed was to get everything on the table before calling the family to sit down.  Too many trips back to the kitchen made behavior problems crop up, and made mealtime conversation impossible.

They now couldn't touch or taste their food until all plates were full, and prayer was finished.  And they couldn't leave their sits unless permission was given.  Peter did far better with this than I anticipated.

I asked several questions to start the conversation, such as "What is your favorite holiday food?"  "What is your favorite thing about Christmastime?"  "What is your favorite thing about snow?"  We then went around the table, and everyone had to answer in a complete sentence.  After a few rounds of these types of questions, we played an oral memory game involving trips to the store, in which each player stated what everyone else had bought, and then added one more thing to the list.  The store trips always had a theme, like items for Christmas dinner, or items to use in the snow.

It wasn't bad at all today, considering what I had undertaken.  Not stressful.  No fits were thrown.  No long battles.  I felt so at peace, knowing that I had left the past behind, and that from here on out, they would see changes in me.  Those changes will encourage them, and give them incentive to respond in kind.

I doubt if I will have to make any hand taps tomorrow.  I think a very solid foundation was laid today.  That said, I think it will take a good month for them to refrain from whining or complaining.  Those two issues were the main problems around here--quickly eroding my moods each day.

Friday, December 18, 2009

pride

I continued to ruminate on the idea of calmness today, in parenting and in everything else.  Then, taking a break this afternoon, I came across the Raising Godly Tomatoes website.  It helped me enormously, but before I get to that, let me provide some background.

As a full-time first grade teacher, I managed 210 children over the course of 9 years.  When my parenting years finally arrived, I felt more than ready.  After all, I knew how to manage children.

Sadly, this sin of pride continued for nearly eight years.

God handed me my sin on a platter this week.  Peter's uncontrollable behavior forced me to admit that I was way out of my league.  I was failing in my responses, and in my general parenting, and I needed help.  As I quickly read through some items on the Godly Tomatoes site, I was presented with the error of my ways.  God's timing = simply amazing.  He prepares our hearts, confronts us with our sin, and then gives us the tools we need to move forward.

Deep down, I think I've known for a couple years that my parenting was lacking.  However, I still clung to my pride, as if it were a shield of some sort.  When presented with wise, but difficult-to-implement parenting advice, through blogs, I quickly dismissed much of it as being too strict or too stiff.  I wanted to be more loving and lighthearted in my approaches, and not expect robots for children.

In actuality, I just didn't want to put forth that much effort.  My laziness and my pride prevailed.

I repent Lord.  Thank you for handing me that platter today!

Here are my parenting failings...my sins:

- not spending enough quality time with my children (I'm a person who needs alone time, but I was taking it at the wrong times)

- anger

- offering praise only when I was in a good mood

- complaining

- nagging

- yelling

- repeating myself

- pursuing a hobby (my writing) at inappropriate times

- going on unnecessary errands just to "get out of the house"

- not expecting first time obedience

- setting too low a standard for behavior

- letting the label of ADHD lower my standards for my son

- not smiling enough

- finding fault with my husband's parenting, and sometimes correcting it, rather than staying quiet and praying about it

- not finding enough fault with my own parenting

By listing them here, I'm acknowledging them before God.  I'm ready to repent, and do the hard work.

If you have time, I highly recommend the Raising Godly Tomatoes website.  Everything is presented like chapters from a book.  Just click on the topics you're interested in.  While you may not agree with everything she says, I think you'll find her wise and helpful.  She was, at one time, right where I'm at.  She freely admits the error of her prior ways.  She humbled herself, and let God do a mighty work in her.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

ADHD news

The Focalin ER (5 mg) ADHD medicine has again exacerbated Peter's anxiety disorder.  It appears that most stimulant medicines cause or increase anxiety.  Other treatment options include a non-stimulant called Strattera, or an anti-depressant medicine that is used off label for ADHD.  Peter's therapist put in a referral today for Peter to see a psychiatrist, to get a second opinion about treatment options.  Our pediatrician doesn't believe in the effectiveness of Strattera, which is why we haven't yet tried it.

Yesterday we didn't attend a homeschooling party due to some mild colds that worsened over night.  I just couldn't take the chance of infecting several families right before Christmas.  Peter took this news very hard, which is customary for him.  A very serious and prolonged fit ensued, making for a stressful Wednesday.

I increasingly feel that Peter's behavior problems require more than just medication.  Family therapy is warranted.  Discussing Peter's meltdown during his anxiety-disorder appointment today, I received some enlightening feedback.  Mind you, it wasn't anything new per se, but I received it with a more humble, willing heart.

The therapist discussed the technique of ignoring.  Sounds simple enough, yes?  We have tried this, but after several minutes Peter's meltdowns increase in severity.  He gets into our faces and shouts, trying to get a reaction; it is extremely distressing, as he doesn't easily tire.  We never give in to any demand, so his behavior doesn't yield him anything tangible.  What it does yield, the therapist explained, is attention.  Any sort of attention is sought; a shouting or arguing match with a parent is often solicited by troubled kids.  Angering the parent becomes a goal in itself.

I find it difficult to comprehend that whole phenomenon.  How could my child be that desperate for attention?  Well, firstly, ADHD children just demand more attention.  It isn't that he is deprived in that regard, necessarily, but that he has unnatural, insatiable desires for attention.  Additionally, because the child displays annoying behavior, the parent may end up spending less time with him, as a self-preservation technique.

Anyhow, this post could get long, and time is short.  Basically, the therapist emphasized the necessity of staying calm, as a way to facilitate ignoring techniques.  After all, children learn how to react to circumstances by emulating their parents.  More than other kids, ADHD children need calm parents.  Nervous is a pretty accurate description of my husband and me at this stage of life--calm is not accurate.

That must change, and it's a hard pill to swallow.  How does one completely change reactions that are ingrained?

A lot of prayer and a humble heart is the only way.  The Lord used my conversation with the therapist to deal with me in some stubborn areas, regarding Peter's ADHD.  While my parenting didn't cause the disorder, it certainly is a stumbling block in effectively treating it.  

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

ashamed and embarrassed

My dining room, currently an eyesore, needs some attention.  Badly.  It contains a hutch, a school desk, a high chair, a six-chair table, and a chart stand for teaching.  For three days my efforts to tidy that room failed--a cluttered mess remains.

Not a huge deal, this.  I know that.  However, looking at the mess for three days while not being able to clean it, apparently eroded my sanity.  For tonight, arriving home after AWANA (we both helped there), one of my childish meltdowns occurred.

My husband left for work, and my children enjoy slumber. Sitting here alone, embarrassed and ashamed about my fit, I feel much sorrow.

I shouted at them--lecturing about listening better, and about attending to bedtime prep immediately after AWANA.  I even shouted at three-year-old Mary, for losing her security blanket; it took thirty minutes to find it, delaying sleep even more.  Probably, the words rant and rave convey just how ridiculous I sounded.

I share this not to elicit sympathy, but to remind myself to refrain.

I want to awaken them, hug them, and tell them how sorry I feel.

Would you like to know the worse thing about parental fits?  We rarely remember them the next time one of our children falls into one.  We act as though they should be ashamed of themselves.  But everybody melts down occasionally--especially following too much work and not enough recharging.

My children never berate me for my fits, and they accept my apologies with grace.  I need to learn from them, and try harder to ignore their fits--or hold them through them--rather than react.  Because, really, it feels lousy to be in the middle of a meltdown.  How many of us like having them?  They usually leave us feeling ashamed, or like we need a good cry.

Regarding the cause (pervasive messiness):  I keep meaning to set a timer and have everybody drop what they're doing, and pick up ten things, several times a day.  A simple idea, and yet it would yield much sanity around here.

I simply must try that tomorrow.  In the meantime, a mess calls.

Blessed night to you, Friends.

Post Script--I read a Bonnie Trenga article today about eliminating weak, boring be verbs from my writing.  I found this a fun exercise, but harder than I thought!  My passive sentence habit must go!

that steel ball

Remember that marble-sized steel ball that was missing from the Mouse Trap game?  Guess who found it, finally?  Yeah, the baby--just the person I was hoping would never end up with it.  In another act of grace, I believe the Lord intervened.  I don't know what we would do without his grace--or his angels.

Peter saw the baby with the ball, and immediately took it from her.

Phew!

Counting my blessings - Tuesday

- The Christmas play at church was awesome!  The boys loved it so much, including all the rehearsals, that they're sad it has come to an end.

- Praying for blogging buddies- what a privilege.

- My friend Caroline and her husband, for their desire to work with the poor--even though it means no income for a while.  That's obedience and faith.

- My Mary, celebrating her third birthday last night with just our little family.  She sang the Happy Birthday song with us.  So cute!

- The excitement my four children displayed at the bath toy I gave Mary for her birthday.  Bath toys are THE thing around here.   It's a tiny basketball hoop with suction cups, accompanied by three puffer fish shaped liked balls (water-squirting balls).

- I also got her three preschool activity books, a pink pencil box containing glue, triangular crayons, and safety scissors.  Preschool will be a regular thing for her now, and my Peter has decided to be Mary's teacher.  He studied the activity books and came up with a lesson plan for today, including having her recite "Little Miss Muffet".  That boy was in full blown teacher mode!  At the dollar store earlier today, he begged me for a small note pad so he could "record Mary's skills".  I told him how proud I was of his teaching skills!

Mary wasn't always cooperative, and he came to us complaining at one point.  My husband and I locked eyes and had to smile at this. At the same time, we both told him, "Now you know how we feel when you don't cooperate."  Dumbfounded at this revelation, he turned on his heels and went back to his teaching.  Talk about teachable moments!  Phew!

- Acidophilus tablets--Last December I had my first C section birth, after which I had a chronically bloated stomach.  Five months later, I decided to try a daily acidophilus tablet.  They turned out to be the cure!  No more bloating!

- My father sent Christmas money.  It will all be needed for an expensive ball baring repair on the van, but what a blessing to have funds for that!  The van had started vibrating on the freeway, on the very day we received Dad's Christmas gift.  We had known about the needed repair for a few months, but the vibrating hadn't started until yesterday.

Additionally, the money from Dad saved Mary's birthday.  We hadn't gotten Beth anything for her birthday, and we were hoping to get a least one little thing for Mary's, since at age 3, she would definitely notice the absence of a present.

- I went to my heating help appointment.  I knew nothing about the program beforehand, except that it might provide $175 once a heating season to resolve shut-off notice emergencies.  We qualified for a percentage of income payment plan for gas and electric.  It will avoid shut off this winter, but when we no longer qualify, both companies can take us to collection on the back payments owed (including garnishing wages and putting a lien on our property).  I'm hoping they will accept additional, reasonable payments, when the time comes.  I'll put a call in to both companies to make sure.  If you know of someone in a wintry state who recently became unemployed, they might need to know about this HEAP program.

There is more, but Beth has awoken twice during this writing, and I also had a batch of cookies to make this evening, for a homeschooling Christmas event.  That sweet baby has this annoying habit of waking frequently between her bedtime and 2 a.m, which means 2 to 4 interruptions in whatever tasks I have in the evenings.  I often fall asleep while nursing her back to sleep--resulting in me often doing dishes at 2:00 or 3:00 o'clock in the morning.

Good night, friends!  I guess at this point, I should say "Good Morning".

Sunday, December 13, 2009

She's One!

So.  My last baby turned one last week.  Bittersweet it is, like my favorite cranberry sauce on Thanksgiving day.  Since my sweet Beth's birthday, I've felt like punching my husband, multiple times, for having that vasectomy (private feelings--I never bring it up around here).  He's as eager to say goodbye to these baby years, as I am to prolong them.

Oh, I know what you're saying--"Get over it already.  You two are ancient, for heaven's sake!  And poor! And besides, remember those medical stockings you complained about constantly during your pregnancy?"

I know.  You're right.  I know you are.  But still....there's this ache...this desire, this yearning, for babies.  It's beyond my comprehension.

It has taken me a week to sit down here and write this post.  In finally writing it, I'm trying to come to terms with what her birthday means.

Based on The Important Book, by Margaret Wise Brown

The important thing about Beth is that she's usually smiling.
It's true that she's petite,
And that she has three rambunctious siblings,
And that she loves to stand up in her highchair.
But the important thing about Beth, is that she's usually smiling.

The important thing about Beth is that she loves to night nurse.
It's true that she loves to explore,
And that she still loves Cheerios,
And that she loves to study Momma's teeth.
But the important thing about Beth is that she loves to night nurse.

The important thing about Beth is that she loves her sister Mary.
It's true that she sneaks into the can cupboard,
And that she loves it when we forget the safety gate,
And that she took steps at 8.5 months.
But the important thing about Beth is that she loves her sister Mary.

The important thing about Beth is that she reaches for Momma in the night.
It's true that she wakes Momma up with a grin,
And that she wriggles terribly during changes,
And that she has four teeth.
But the important thing about Beth is that she reaches for Momma in the night.

The important thing about Beth is that she loves spontaneous hugs.
It's true that she has natural curls,
And that she thinks life with siblings is a party,
And that she loves Momma's baked ziti.
But the important thing about Beth is that she loves spontaneous hugs.

The important thing about Beth is that she loves to carry around books.
It's true that she loves her mac n' cheese,
And that she sucks on Clementine oranges,
And that she's getting her share of forehead bumps,
But the important thing about Beth is that she loves to carry around books.

The important thing about Beth is that she's the essence of sweetness.
It's true that she's always on the move,
And that she likes to take car rides,
And that she loves to carry around empty milk jugs.
But the important thing about Beth is that she's the essence of sweetness.

The important thing about Beth is that her Momma loves her so!
It's true that she loves the "Fish Alive" song,
And that she stops crying for Jesus songs,
And that she sleeps in a queen bed.
But the important thing about Beth is that her Momma loves her so!

Happy First Birthday, My Love!  You bring joy, joy, joy to my soul!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

God's Timing

Two neat blessings to share today!

The fellowship available through blogging helps me tremendously!  Thank you, dear Readers. There has been powerful evidence recently that God sanctions my finding fellowship here.  See, a few weeks ago I posted a comment on the Amy's Humble Musings blog.  I rarely comment there, but for whatever reason, I did this particular time.  Her blog has had technical problems of late, and the commenting didn't go smoothly.  My comment didn't post, and when I tried it again, it said I was trying to do a duplicate comment--it wouldn't let me proceed.

Later that day, I checked back to see if my comment had ever shown up.  I started reading the other comments, and happened to click on Paula's name.  She wrote briefly about her teenagers and I wanted to take a look at how my life was going to change as my babies grew into teens.

I found a post about her family having gone through unemployment, and if you recall, I reposted it on my other blog.  Dumbfounded I was, at the randomness of the whole thing!  But really, it wasn't random.  God orchestrated it--I'm sure of it, because yesterday I also found out that her husband took a degree in Theology as well, and never used it professionally.  And, her husband is relaxed and laid back, as mine is (except when he is caring for babies lol.)  Both men are also starting new careers at age 50.

To click on her name like that, among all those others!  It was amazing.  She has been such an encouragement, and it feels so good to know that someone understands the details of my life.  Thank you, Lord!  And Paula!

I love my husband very, very much.  My life with him is a blessing, much more than it is difficult.  And he is doing well in his computer classes--just wanted to make sure I posted that, as it probably didn't sound like it from an earlier post.

I wanted to share also about God's amazing timing in providing for our needs.  We haven't had any snow really stick here yet, which is very unusual.  The boys went out yesterday, wanting to play in the snow, even though there was just a smidgen on the ground.  It was the first time they had gotten into full snow gear, and we quickly realized that Paul didn't have proper fitting snow boots.  Usually, I buy them at thrift stores as I see them; there just haven't been many around lately.

I did go looking for them immediately at a nearby thrift store, to no avail.  Often, when you really need something STAT, you can be disappointed in thrift store shopping.  The blessing often comes in finding good buys for the future, rather than for immediate use.

Anyhow, we knew we were likely to get good play snow soon, and that poor Paul was likely to be disappointed. Wouldn't you know, later that day we received a $70.00 gift card in the mail, as a result of a rebate on the fridge my father had purchased for us.  Who is responsible for that timing, do you suppose?

It never fails that when we really need something material ( a need verses want), not more than a few days goes by before it is somehow provided.  It is as though God wants us to learn something through this experience, but he doesn't want the children to suffer too much as a result.

Our church called to offer sponsorship for them for Christmas again.  I was hesitant, as I didn't want them developing a sense of entitlement about gifts and such.  If someone else always provides everything, would they learn anything about working hard, and about the payoff from labor?  I wondered.  However, I knew we wouldn't be able to get them anything, so I said the help would be a blessing, but could we limit it to two presents each?  The church agreed.

Another example of God's timing comes from the story of a good friend, who recently needed a stove insert to help heat her large house.  They are about to embark on a ministry for the poor and live on just their savings until the ministry grows enough to provide them with income.

Her husband prayed one day about the need for the insert, and that evening at church he happened to mention it to someone who had a spare insert in his garage--available for the taking.  Isn't God awesome?  Her husband just happened to be speaking to the very person who could help him, although he didn't realize it when he struck up the conversation.  Amazing!  Please pray for their ministry needs, and for continued provision.


Blessed weekend to you, Friends!

nutritional blessing - potatoes

I found a wonderful site that provides comprehensive nutritional information.   While looking over a recipe for Double Potato Soup, I decided to check on the nutrition it would provide my family.  Both sweet potatoes and russets pack a lot of nutritional blessing!

Russet potato--Iron 18%;  Vitamin C 64%;  Fiber 7 g;  Protein 8 g;  Vitamin A 1% ; Calcium 5%

Sweet potato--Iron 8%;  Vitamin C 65%;  Fiber 7 g;  Protein 4 g;  Vitamin A 769%;  Calcium 8%

Here is the recipe, from Leanne Ely's book, Saving Dinner:

Double Potato Soup

1 Tbs olive oil
2 onions, chopped
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
3 cloves garlic, pressed
2 cans chicken broth
1 tsp thyme
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste
2 cups half and half

In soup pot, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Add onions and cook till translucent.  Add sweet potatoes, potatoes and garlic and cook another two minutes.  Add the chicken broth, thyme, and cayenne pepper and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer covered until the potatoes are tender, about 10-15 minutes.

Use a potato masher and squish the lumps in the soup as best you can.  This soup is better not processed in the blender as it is heartier this way; however, if you prefer it smoother, go ahead and blend away.  Just remember to process it in batches or it'll get all over the ceiling.

Heat soup to a simmer, add salt and pepper to taste, add half and half and warm till hot, but don't boil or it will break.

Serve with spinach salad and whole-grain rolls.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Admitting Defeat

I have to admit defeat, folks.  Earlier I wrote about how we would labor together in love this Christmas season, trying to bless others, despite having no money.  My cookie plans were big.  Too big, as it turns out.

Two years ago I had similar ideas about trying to "save" Christmas, by having my children make homemade crafts to send to relatives.  To my surprise, my children turned out to be just children, not factory workers.  It blew up in my face, and ended up being very stressful, and hard on my ADHD child.  He enjoyed it, sure enough, but it broke his routine too many days in a row.  When his symptoms worsen, I worsen as a parent--becoming more nervous, reactive, unpleasant.

Unfortunately, I had forgotten the turmoil of that Christmas.

Something really awful happened this morning to help jolt my memory.

Daddy went off to school (new schedule is Mon. and Fri. mornings), and I was scrambling, trying to get diapers changed, children into clothes, and breakfast made.

My oldest decided that, even though breakfast was minutes away, he wanted to play with the punch-out math curriculum money.  No, he didn't ask.  And he decided the living room floor--behind the couch and fully within baby's reach--was the place to dump it all out for his counting and figuring pleasure.

Did I mention it has many, many tiny pieces?

I was seriously irritated by this.  Recently, they've forgotten frequently that small. things. cannot. be. on. our. floors.  The dining room table is safe, unless a meal is forthcoming.

As I began helping to clean it up, while at the same time trying to hold my baby out of reach, my irritation grew.  I decided quickly that a spanking was in order.  I understand that children often forget safety rules, but there have been far too many similar instances lately.  Childish ways must be left behind, and that doesn't always happen without some painful reminders.

As I reached out to plant a spanking on his bottom, he moved aside quickly, and my baby ended up taking a slap on her face.

 I don't even have to tell you that I was horrified; I immediately burst into tears.  I scooped her up quickly, lavishing her with love and "I'm sorrys".

This is a horrible thing to have to read, but rest assured there isn't a mark on her.  And she got over it mighty quickly.  She had Mommy all to herself for about thirty minutes.  I wisely stayed away from the other children, while taking some time to calm down and evaluate things.

First off, we are too poor to be doing large-scale baking for relatives and church folk.  I should have seen this from the start.  Sometimes, Christmas just can't be about gifts--any gifts.  Not even cheaply-made ones involving mostly flour, sugar, butter, and the occasional Hershey's kiss.  My appointment for next week, to apply for winter heating help so our utilities don't get turned off due to non-payment, should have been my first clue that I was out of line with my baking plans.

And the second clue?  Maybe the fact that the mixer motor blew out the other day--complete with tiny fire and smoke?  Yeah, I catch on to clues rather slowly.

Secondly, I have to face the fact that Christmas may not include gift giving until my children are out of the home.  Even if my husband's computer technology classes land him a better job, it still won't take us much above the poverty level for our large family.  Tech guys start out with relatively small salaries.  And, my husband's attention deficit issues may make it harder for him to achieve success in the field.  It's hard not to face the fact that attention deficit issues are real handicaps.  This is probably less true for a single person who has more time to organize himself, or for someone with fewer children.  Medication comes with so many side effects, that the quality of life is diminished, even if general functionality seems to increase.

Thirdly, I have an ADHD son who can't take any change of routine without difficulty.  One or two days of baking, or one or two days of crafting, are more realistic for him.  And for me--considering the diapering and laundry and schooling.

I made some choices that are dictating how I live. One of them was marrying someone who didn't have the characteristics or the education/training of a hardy bread winner (Theology degree).  There are clear blessings in that, but nevertheless, it dictates that Christmas and all other areas of life have to be very simple.

There's no money for me to take the extra classes needed to obtain an Ohio teaching credential, and there are few to no jobs in the area anyway--even if I thought God was telling me to get into the workforce.  We see no indication that He is calling for that--at this time anyway.

Time to take back December.  And focus.  Focus.  Focus.

On what He has for me...for us...at Christmastime...and everyday.

His peace is available for our family, if we just focus on the tasks he's given us.  And not on those the world seems to be giving us--in terms of material living.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

slice of holiday life

Crafting and baking with children is a blessing. I love it!  But the resulting exuberance and chaos is getting to me. After we put our hyperactive happy children to bed tonight, we felt utterly exhausted--more so than we have in quite a while.

My oldest will be eight in January, so I've been a parent nearly eight years.  You would think in that number of years I'd have learned how to manage them.  Maybe by the time they're college age, I can do this Christmas crafting and baking thing with finesse.  Ya, think?  Would I still have to say, while I'm preparing the counter for baking--"Stop wrestling!"  "Leave your sister alone!"  "Be gentle."

Then, the dryer buzzer rings.  For the second time.  I simply must stop and hang the clothes this time.

Twenty minutes later, I go back to the kitchen, and smell a diaper that needs changing.  Following that wrestling match fun experience with my twelve-month-old baby, my three-year-old tells me she is wet.

Fifteen minutes later, everyone is dry and happy, and I go back to preparing the counter.

Then Paul tells me the baby has a Light Bright peg in her hand.  A what!?  Running in there, I say, "Who got out the Light Bright, and why was it in the playroom?!

I check the floor, and sure enough, there are pegs scattered around.  It's not an easy cleanup, as I have to clear the floor of larger things first.  The peg colors are light, making them hard to detect on the carpet surface.  As we clear the floor, I notice how badly it needs a good vacuuming--since the floor is clear, I figure I'd better take advantage of the vacuuming opportunity.

Thirty minutes later, I go back to the kitchen, and continue preparing the counter.  I glance at the clock, and notice that it's time to start dinner already.  I thought I had ninety minutes to work with!

Time sure flies when you're having fun going crazy!

I announce that we'll have to mix the batch of cookies after dinner, depending on behavior.  It's just too close to dinner to start.

This announcement is not welcomed.

After dinner, it goes similarly--one fire to put out after another.  We then get too close to bath time to start a batch of cookies.  Besides, everyone is clearly tired and cranky, including Mom and Dad.

I let them decorate some cookies we'd already baked--giving them fifteen minutes to create their messes masterpieces--and then we head for the bath.

What would I do without all this to fill my days? :)  I'm blessed!

But clearly, we look forward to bedtime around here.

Does anyone have a good icing recipe for cutout cookies?  I disappointed my boys by mixing up a quick batch of icing using a recipe I found on the Internet (Royal Icing ll)--only to realize afterwards that it called for raw egg whites.  I had to throw it out, as we are giving these cookies away, for the most part.  The risk of salmonella poisoning made it seem too dangerous.

Another recipe called for meringue powder, which I don't have.  The one with egg whites is perhaps only for gingerbread houses, which usually aren't eaten?  I do need a recipe that would allow the cookies to be stacked without a mess--meaning it would dry hard.  Thanks!

If necessary, I'll go out and get meringue powder this weekend.  They must treat it somehow so salmonella isn't a risk?

Anyhow, I was hoping for something simple!  :(

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

counting my blessings - Wednesday

- Chili with cornbread on a stormy evening

- Clementine oranges for a side dish--I think I actually ate four of those today!  Don't ask me how many cookies I've eaten since we started our cookie gift venture.

- My Beth, running toward me with her sweet giggle, and knocking me over with her hug

- My Mary's blond curls, looking different every day

- My boys, giddy with excitement while decorating the sugar cookies they rolled out and pressed themselves. (Yes, in case you were wondering....it was a huge mess.  I had just mopped the floor that morning. )

- My Mary, having a fabulous time in the bath with measuring cups and spoons

- My husband, never failing to kiss me goodbye.

- My Peter, writing up a storm in his journal today.  We put him back on his ADHD medicine yesterday. His school work had deteriorated in the last month, due to lack of focus.  He's gone two days without needing much discipline.  A blessing for Peter, and for the rest of the family!  I'm praying the anxiety doesn't worsen again.

- Singing Beth's favorite song, and watching her try to put up her little finger--"1,2,3,4,5,  Once I caught a fish alive; 6,7,8,9,10, Then I let him go again.  Why did you let him go?  Because he bit my finger so.  Which finger did he bite?  This little finger on the right."

- Beth's problem solving skills--Folding towels next to the dryer, I watched her attempt to get into a kitchen drawer by using a toy bin as a stool.  At 12 months! Okay, maybe that's pretty normal?  Anyway, I love watching my children solve problems!  The toy bin kept moving, so she ended up in tears over the frustration.   Yes, it was kind of dangerous--I should have stopped her immediately and I'll be sorry I didn't.  In a few days, she'll probably figure out exactly what bin will do the trick.

- My Paul, developing a love for college sports.  This is more of a blessing for my husband.  He now has a partner for Saturday college football.  It amazes me how much Paul has learned about the game, without any lessons from us.  Football is pretty complicated!

- Cuddling with each child briefly at bedtime....smelling their freshly shampooed hair.

- Watching my boys make elaborate desserts with their Playdoh (pretending they owned a bakery).

- Other Mommy blogs, to remind me of how hard this job is, and how blessed I am to have it.

- Hearing the fierce wind battle the trees and windows, and knowing I'm safe and warm inside.

- The French Vanilla cocoa I'm about to make.

The Path

Beth celebrated her first birthday yesterday!  Mary celebrates her third birthday on Monday.  I haven't had time to sit down and do birthday posts yet.  I hope to in the next few days.

My last post is more confusing than anything else.  I didn't really have time to blog, but some thoughts were swirling through that I felt like recording.

What I meant to convey was something like this:  The life of the Christian is a walk with God.  The very reason we were put here, on this earth, is to walk with Him.  As we walk together, he gets the fellowship he desires and the glory he craves.  This seems so simple...we don't want to truly believe it.  But it's true.  We were put here only to walk with God.

How much peace and joy we get out of that walk (our life) depends on how unwavering our focus is.  When I keep my daily focus on God and on the tasks he's given me, I experience the best He has to offer.

If I spend energy worrying about my husband's school work, job, job hunt, etc., I'm not focusing on God, or on what he's given me to do.

Matthew 6:31-33 tells me, "So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

The part in bold is so easily forgotten.  We like to focus on what we're going to get, rather than on our given task. I have repeated this verse in my mind countless times over the years, but it's only now that I'm really seeing my task, as given here by the Lord.

How exactly do we seek his Kingdom and his righteousness?  Isn't that kind of vague?

It was vague for me, even though I've heard lots of sermons on the idea, and I've given it a lot of thought.

Nothing in my life is really going well right now.  Yes, I have faith and hope, and even a good bit of contentment--I always have those.  But everything else is a mess.

I believe he's taken me to this point--in which nothing is going well--to force me to focus.  Having focus means that when I get up in the morning, I just see the path.  And Him.  Everything else gets filtered out.

The path that we walk with him leads to the Kingdom and the righteousness.

All other paths lead to nowhere.







Monday, December 7, 2009

my part

Overwhelmed by issues at home lately?  Feel anxious, or pulled in different directions?

This year has been like that for me.

As much as my husband and I are a team, our respective roles are separate and distinct.

When I write down only what God wants from me, focus comes.  Peace comes.

I do pray for my husband, so that he's ready each day to follow God.  But I am only responsible for my part.  I can't waste energy worrying about what's between God and my husband.  I'll only be in the way.

It's more than enough for me to make sure I'm in God's will.

ignoring the mess

We've been baking and blessing by day, AND I've had the writing bug for several nights straight--meaning I haven't been blessing the house....much.  Writing is a bittersweet endeavor at this stage of my life; I must do it.  The call is too powerful.  But, oh!  How I suffer when the house suffers!

Today is a school day and I must keep my blinders on--ignoring the call of the clutter and crumbs.  We've made it to our first break, which laundry by itself will absorb.

Most moms will tell you that the most challenging thing about homeschooling is the MESS.  Or rather, ignoring the mess.  When the day's lessons are complete, mom is emotionally exhausted, and suddenly cleaning is the last thing she feels like doing.

Did I mention how much I love homeschooling?

Beth's Glorious Day

Peter, Paul, Beth and I went to a nursing home today--with the kids' choir from our church--for Christmas caroling and a Gospel message.

I have been deeply in love with babies since I was very little.  I know they bless others enormously.  Once you're a baby lover, you're always one.  My dad is similarly affected; that man always makes a beeline to the nearest baby, whether he knows her or not.  He prefers girl babies but boy babies will do.

I didn't set out with Beth today specifically so she could be a blessing.  Mostly, I thought about her crying a lot for Daddy, and him being extremely stressed by the time we arrived home.  I decided to take her along.  She would enjoy the caroling, I thought.  And there's the fact that I always miss her, even when I'm gone an hour at the grocery store.

The patients were taken with Beth and instinctively touched her hands, in a friendly greeting.  At first I was scared.  I hadn't thought about this possibility--about them touching her.  What if she ended up gravely ill and in the hospital, as a result of my taking her there?  I knew I could live without her through Christ's strength, but the hole in my heart left by her absence?  That would never heal.

These were fleeting thoughts.

How bad of a virus could she get, I wondered, after the first three patients touched her.  She's already been ill with what we think was H1N1, and she's covered for regular seasonal flu, due to a vaccine.  What's more, at nearly one year old, she could recover easily from RSV, as a nursling.  I didn't know what other scary things might be lurking.

I pushed away thoughts of bacterial meningitis.

During the singing I stood to the side of the room, holding Beth.  I looked around at the patients.  I thought I saw loneliness...sadness....bitterness.  I couldn't find a single smile, despite the children's voices blessing the room.

If my own kids choose this for me someday, would I manage a smile when a church came singing?

It was a nice facility.  Clean.  Attractive.  But, it was still a facility.  They were still being cared for by strangers, who were working very hard, making between $8.00 and $11.00 an hour.  Elderly-care and childcare are two of the worst-paid professions.  Sad, but true.  It has always angered me.  How can we, as a nation, do this?  Why don't we value our young and our old?

There was only one staff member bringing people to see us sing.  At first, only five patients were in the room.  Then, gradually, about six more were brought in--some toward the end.  Two patients wheeled themselves in.

The children sang beautifully.

It ended after about forty minutes, which I think was too short.  Afterwards, all the children and the adult escorts went around to greet people.

I knew my Beth could bless these people, if I took her around to each one.  In my head, I spoke to Him.  "Okay, Lord.  You gave her to me to be a blessing.  She is everything to me.  I love her more than I can express.  And I think you want me to share her.  Protect her, and let her bless."

I then circled the room, stopping in front of each patient.  They all touched her, smiled at her, talked to her.  They were all blessed.  So much so, that I didn't want to leave.

She is in bed now, asleep.  I am praying that nothing is going through her body right now, as a result of her glorious day.

Deep down, I know she isn't mine. She is His.  I learned this difficult fact about children on November 18, 2000, when I was told during an ultrasound that the baby boy I was carrying had passed away.  There had been no sign of miscarriage, and we were 21 weeks along; we were shocked.

If I hadn't already learned this (that my children are His), I wouldn't have been able to take Beth around today, knowing she would be touched.

Many times since that fateful November ultrasound, I have had occasion to look back, and say, "If I hadn't gone through that, I wouldn't know _____."  

I can't say I would choose it, if I could go back in time.  No.  I would never choose it.

But I'm grateful for it, nonetheless.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

peanut butter blossoms - a diversion

The children and I baked this evening, making a huge mess in the process.  After they were tucked in and asleep, I started washing pans and bowls, while listening to some news.  What a disturbing news weekend!  As the details of the Knox murder case were discussed, I began to feel fear about being in the house without my husband (he left at 8:30 p.m. for a part-time job).  The senseless violence involved in that case is so frightening!

I lived alone for a long time in California as a single school teacher, and I never had a problem with fear.  Of course, I never read or watched anything disturbing, either.  Feeling spooked is no fun.

Wanting to divert my mind, I turned off the news and put the clean-up on hold.  I'm going to pass some time telling you about our cute little cookies--our cute little delicious cookies (peanut butter blossoms).

Baking with children is one of my favorite activities.  I just love being one with them in the kitchen! I love that we all contribute.  I love that they learn in the process.  I love that their moods elevate immediately, upon hearing that we're going to bake, or make applesauce or soup.  And I love their eager faces as I hand over the mixer utensils to be licked (I know--it's potentially unhealthy because of the raw eggs--but how fun!).

And finally, when the cookies come out of the oven, I love that it feels like a party around here!  Kids just have a way of living that tickles my fancy.  Life is a celebration!  Live it up!  Eat dessert first!

Not a bad motto, I must say.

There was an added bonus for the kids with these peanut butter blossoms.  They unwrapped the Hershey's kisses for me first thing.  While they worked, I announced that they could eat the leftover kisses.  What joy ensued!

Without further ado, here is a recipe for peanut butter blossoms.  They look almost too cute to eat!  A perfect cookie to give away for the holidays!  They're oh so delicious--or delectable, as Mary would say!

Peanut Butter Blossoms

Ingredients
48 Hershey's kisses
1/2 cup shortening (I used butter, 1/2 c)
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1 egg
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
Granulated sugar

Directions:

1. Heat oven to 375 degrees F.  Remove wrappers from chocolates. (Don't make the same mistake I did, and get into the chocolates before baking day!)

2.  Beat shortening and peanut butter in large bowl until well blended.  Add 1/3 cup granulated sugar and brown sugar; beat until fluffy.  Add egg, milk and vanilla; beat well.  Stir together flour, baking soda, and salt; gradually beat into peanut butter mixture.

3.  Shape dough into 1-inch balls.  Roll in granulated sugar; place on ungreased cookie sheet.

4.  Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly browned.  Immediately press a chocolate into the center of each cookie; cookie will crack around edges.  Remove from cookie sheet to wire rack.  Cool completely.  Makes about 4 dozen.

(taken from Hersheys.com)

Saturday, December 5, 2009

are you ready?

As I was reading Ann's post on A Holy Experience, I found this website: Christmas Change

I only had time to read two stories, but that was enough to convince me that the site is a wonderful place to hang out this month!  Happy reading!

A WORD ABOUT PRAYER

I  consider it a privilege to pray for you, by the way.  If I ever write or say that I will pray, I really do it!  I learned in the first two years of being a Christian that all too often, we passingly say we will pray, and then we fail to do it--not because of an impure heart, but because we aren't generally having a quiet time with the Lord when we say it.  We think we will remember it later, during our "official" prayer time.

I have learned that we need to pray as soon as a need arises.  God puts prayer needs in our path and on our hearts--I really believe that.  Those thoughts that pop into our heads aren't of us.  Listening to that Holy Spirit voice, and identifying it as His, helps me see intercessory prayer as a privilege and an obedience.

I've known some real prayer warriors in my life, and I'm not mature enough in the faith to compare to them, but I do feel God slowly changing this area of my life.  Instead of lamenting about or trying to solve problems around me--expending all sorts of emotional energy in the process--I am remembering more often that God wants my prayers, not my help.  It's not that my prayers change his mind.  It's that they mold me into his instrument; they change me.

How haughty of me to have ever thought he needed my help!

When I turn to prayer, I am acknowledging him as my Creator, my King.  It puts me in right relationship with him.

A right relationship with him brings peace and rest.

When I am at peace and resting (mentally, spiritually), he can work his wonders in my heart.

Because I am listening...waiting...ready.

Are you ready, today?

Have a blessed weekend with your families!

Friday, December 4, 2009

A crash....and a picking up

Today (now yesterday) started out with promise.

I've been trying harder to start school by 8:30 a.m., so that even when there are unexpected glitches in the day, we can still finish well before dinner.  Progress in this area has lifted my spirits lately.

So the day went along fairly well.  I was feeling rather smug.  I'm getting the hang of this four-children thing, I told myself.

And then, CRASH!

Things went south rather quickly.

And I confess that my attitude followed suit.

Paul brought his Mouse Trap game into the playroom during a school break, which coincided with the girls' naps.  When my Beth awoke, I changed her and brought her into the playroom, only to find the game pieces all over the floor.  What's more, I was told that the steel ball was lost.  Paul had thrown it over his shoulder, and the boys hadn't bothered to really look for it.

I was very, very, very, very bothered by this situation.  Is that enough emphasis to convey that I was fuming mad a fire-breathing dragon?  Their habit of getting out games and spreading them all over, instead of taking them to the dining-room table, has caused considerable annoyance lately.

The steel balls can't be anywhere near Beth and Mary--or any of the other game parts, either--so the boys and my husband and myself had to thoroughly go through each toy bin, looking for the tiny, marble-sized ball.  School had to be put on hold, as Beth needed to be able to use the playroom.  Her play area was previously the living room, but that area lost its appeal.

Adjust, adjust, adjust.  Schooling with little ones around means constant adjusting.

We never found the ball, and the searching and rearranging of the room took two hours.  While we were at it, we decided to remove some toy bins and toy bin holders, so that there was less potential for Beth to make a disastrous mess every hour.

Are you getting the idea that this fiasco wasn't just a simple glitch in our day?

Making matters worse, Paul and Peter were in bad moods over all the extra cleaning required of them.  You might imagine that under the circumstances, their attitudes didn't elevate my mood one bit.

By midday, it also become clear that I had a cluster of clogged milk ducts that would have to be dealt with.  They are painful, and if you can't clear them using home remedies within a couple days, a breast infection becomes a risk--meaning a doctor visit.  Since we still don't have insurance, I dreaded another emergency-room visit.  They are more expensive, and taxpayer money is used to help foot the bill.  I don't actually have a family doctor; all my Ohio office visits have been to an OBGYN, due to Mary and Beth's pregnancies.  There is this inconvenient rule that to acquire a new doctor, you have to go in for a well visit first.  Not to mention that without insurance, they want money up front.

Anyhow, three months of pay stubs must be sent in, and then depending on what percentage of the poverty level a family is at, all or most of the bill is paid through Care Assurance programs.  Since getting to a doctor is now so problematic, I allowed myself to get depressed and irritated about the clogged ducts.

In an effort to calm down and regroup, I read a few quick blog posts.  Instead of inspiring, or helping, they further knocked down my spirits.  One was the At The Well post about being a crown for your husband.  It was well done--don't get me wrong--but it made me feel like I had to be perfect.  Our crisis living situation (unemployment) makes trying to be godly or perfect all that much harder.

Then I read a post on Like a Warm Cup of Coffee about expecting obedience the first time, every time, with a cheerful attitude (the blog author quoted a Charlotte Mason book).  According to Charlotte Mason, if the parent fails in this regard even once, obedience becomes something that must be won through the use of authority, rather than through a mother's cheerful, expectant manner. It also emphasized that we must be careful of what we say, so that follow-through becomes a sure thing.

As an ex-teacher, I know all that stuff.  Except that now as a mom, I'm doing a lot more with kids than just teaching them academics, and I'm never getting 50-minute lunch breaks, or relaxing sans kids after 5:00 p.m. There's extra potential for me to feel like I'm going insane.  So insane, in fact, that I say things like, "I'm going to the bedroom to nurse the baby and put her down.  If you get rambunctious and loud and wake her up, I'm going to take the upcoming playdate away."  (Daddy had worked all night long and was sleeping, so he couldn't pick up any slack while I nursed Beth).

A totally stupid statement.  I know.  Dealing with four young children brings out my inner stupid sometimes--what can I say?

Later, I realized that canceling a play date wasn't fair to our homeschooling friends.  The boys didn't wake up the baby, but if they had, I would have been in a difficult situation.  Follow through meant potentially upsetting another family's plans.

To an ADHD child, my statement sounded like a dare.  They are strong-willed, impulsive, easily-angered, and they often feel defeated by too much correction.  Going for the dare seems like the thing to do.  It's taken me most of the last year to realize that things won't go well for anybody if I use phrases that sound like dares.  Moreover, I am coming to the conclusion that taking things away is ineffective with my crew--even if it's as simple as dessert.  Diapers, messes, schooling, etc. make it too easy for me to forget that so and so doesn't get any dessert.

I'm even thinking that doing any behavior-related forewarning at all is backfiring (if you do such and such...this will happen).

And, I know I need to say very little, and choose my words wisely.  Attempting to teach proper behavior in an irritated, preachy voice, is earning me less respect--not more.

And finally, I read a post on the Love Lasts a Lifetime blog about buying a Christmas nightie for my husband to open every year.  We don't have a cent for Christmas.  We haven't been able to buy each other gifts since our first child was born--when I quit my full-time teaching job.  I hate to reveal this on the Internet, but I haven't had a cent to buy any type of pajama--for years.

It turns out that reading a few blog posts was the wrong thing today--or the right thing at the wrong time.  They left me feeling less capable...less worthy of raising these children up to love and obey the Lord...less capable of loving and encouraging my husband with a godly attitude and kind deeds.

The three posts were good ones.  Very good ones.  But I made the mistake of thinking I had to follow their advice in my own strength.  I quickly forgot that I can do nothing without Christ who strengthens me.  The first thing I must do when I read a good exhorting post, is to go to Father and ask for help in implementing it.  Otherwise, it isn't worth much.

Oh, sure, when life is routine, we can do pretty well on our own.  We can deceive ourselves and begin to feel smug.

But then clogged ducts get thrown into the mix, or a lost job, or a major illness, or a missing steel ball, or a special-needs child is born, or .......

All these things serve to remind us...


That without Him, we are nothing.